ABC News featured an interesting story about women bullies in the workplace. Men, we are told, target both sexes equally when bullying. Women tend to go after other women.
Why? "It is the perfection combined with the urgency that creates a lethal combination," said one participant in a counseling round-table for workplace aggression. This observation mirrors research that Sue and I uncovered for our latest book. The "urgency" refers to the limited positions of authority available to women in corporate America. With so few openings (right or wrong, that's the way it is), competition among women can get fierce. In many cases, one woman is "competing" against another woman who has no aspirations for higher office--but that doesn't seem to matter.
The church is not immune to such infighting. Women usually find indirect means to undermine, hurt, and attack other women. This style protects us, we think, from the more unpleasant aspects of direct confrontation. And yet the Bible exhorts everyone to address personal conflict one-on-one, face-to-face, directly and with humility (see Matthew 18). If that doesn't work, we can take a witness, and so forth. Even this article about workplace conflict follows the biblical pattern: be direct, establish a paper trail, bring a witness...
The difference is that in most cases such workplace conflict--secular and ministry--occurs out of sinful motives. "I'm going to win." "She was wrong!" Christians are called to a higher standard.