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23. Conflict

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Conflict Resolution



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“From Trauma to Transformation”

Conflict Resolution



Have you ever felt that you were surrounded with conflict and problems and you wondered if there was any way out?


Ben found a way out.


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The Ben Carson Story


Ben Carson was born in the inner city of Detroit (USA). His mother,Sonya, came from a home of poverty where there were twenty-three brothers and sisters. At the age of thirteen she married her husband, who was fifteen years her senior and had thirteen siblings. Sonya received only a third-grade education and read with great difficulty. She bore two sons in this marriage. When Ben, the younger son, was eight, his father left home to live with another woman and never returned. At an early age Ben said he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up.Could he reach his dream when they were so poor and lived in a crime-infested neighborhood? Conflict? Problems? They were on the street outside his door and in the school he attended. Was there any hope for Ben? Many sociologists would say “No.”


Twenty-five years later, seventy members of a Johns Hopkins surgical team successfully separated seven-month-old conjoined twins who were joined at the back of their heads. It was the first time this had ever been achieved. The surgery took five months of planning and numerous dress rehearsals. The surgery itself was a grueling twenty-two-hour ordeal. This surgical team was led by none other than Dr. Benjamin Carson.


Ben Carson was an unlikely success story. One of the many hurdles he had to overcome was his anger. By the ninth grade, he had a pathological temper. One day Ben and a friend were listening to a radio when Bob changed stations. An argument ensued about which music to listen to. “In that instant,” Ben says, “blind anger—pathological anger—took possession of me. Grabbing the camping knife I carried in my back pocket, I snapped it open and lunged for the boy who had been my friend. With all the power of my young muscles, I thrust the knife toward his belly. The knife hit his big, heavy . . . belt buckle with such a force that the blade snapped and dropped to the ground.”


In a daze, Ben raced home and locked himself in the bathroom. He had dreamed of being a doctor since he was eight years old, but how could he fulfill this dream with such a terrible temper? He passed two hours in agony. As he searched his life, he felt impressed to pray. His mother had taught him to pray. For months he had tried to control his temper but could not. Ben says: “I felt as though I could never face anyone again. How could I look my mother in the eye? . . . ‘Lord,’ I whispered, ‘You have to take this temper from me. If you don’t, I’ll never be free from it. I’ll end up doing things a lot worse than trying to stab one of my best friends.’”


Ben slipped out of the bathroom and grabbed a Bible. He opened it and began reading from Proverbs.



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Proverbs 16:32 impressed him the most: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (RSV).


Ben says, “During those hours alone in the bathroom, something happened to me. God heard my deep cries of anguish. A feeling of lightness flowed over me, and I knew a change of heart had taken place. I was different. . . . I walked out of the bathroom a changed young man. ‘My temper will never control me again,’ I told myself. ‘Never again. I’m free.’”[1]


Definition of conflict



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Terms of Reference

Definition – Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs.




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·    Conflict can be a positive or negative experience—Constructive & destructive potential.

·    In this life there will always be conflict.


It has the potential of building healthy relationships or destroying them. It has constructive potential. It seems God must allow conflict for a purpose.Maybe it is His way of helping us to improve our character—to become more mature.Conflicts are great teachers and polishers of character.


Research information

The professional literature dealing with conflict almost invariably speaks to underlying causes in hostility and makes many references to anxiety and depression. Anger is the fuel for conflict. But other causes include jealousy, envy, selfishness, pride, and impulsiveness.




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Research on Conflict & Its Impact on BIOLOGICAL Wellness

·    A Meta-Analysis of 45 Studies showed Hostility is a risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease & premature death.

·    Type A Personality with Hostility predicts Coronary Heart Disease.




Physical effects of anger


The so-called Type A personality[2]—highly competitive, ambitious, rushing, easily angered, and hostile—are in danger of heart disease. “Twice as many Type A men developed heart disease in an eight and a half-year time frame as those without these features.”[3] Later studies indicated hostility (anger) specifically was the primary culprit.[4][TL2]




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·    Highly Hostile People More Reactive to Offenses than Low-Hostile People

–    Increased cholesterol

–    Increased platelet clumping

–    Decreased immune system

·    Different Forms of Anger


The exaggerated release of stress hormones during conflict is a culprit in coronary heart disease. In conflict, the affected people show high fight-or-flight responses of the sympathetic nervous system, while the calming parasympathetic nervous system is weaker.


“The net effects . . . —increased cardiovascular activation, increased mobilization of cholesterol into the blood, increased clumping of platelets, and decreased immune system functions, to mention but a few—are quite capable of starting in motion pathological processes that would account for the higher death rates observed among hostile persons.”[5]


Psychological effects of anger

Anger comes in many forms. But left uncontrolled, the fallout is always negative.


Have you noticed that some strong-willed individuals may manipulate others either by the silent treatment or loud anger, demanding to get their own way?They always have to win. Things have to be done their way. And when they are married to another strong-willed person—beware. Trouble is ahead if conflict management skills are not learned.


Dr. David Mace and his wife, Vera, were the founders of the Association for Couples in Marital Enrichment, and for a generation were revered for their contribution to the marriage enrichment movement.



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Psychological Effects of Anger

·    The management of anger is the “one key issue that would explain why so many marriages, embarked upon with such high hopes, finally falter and fail.” Dr. David Mace


According to Mace, failure to deal effectively with anger and conflict destroys intimacy by resulting in too many or too few disagreements.


After the couple has a series of heart-rending experiences over the months and years, the partners grow fearful of intimacy. Eventually both parties close up and withdraw from the dispute. Their sex life becomes poor or non-existent. The couple is married legally but not emotionally. In other marriages, one partner is dominant and imposes his/her ideas and plans on the other, who then loses hope of happiness and doesn’t even argue anymore. Hostility is there, but it is passiveaggressive (the anger is held on the inside and not openly expressed).It is equally as dangerous, and perhaps more so,as those situations where there is active-aggressive anger[TL3] .[6]


Hurts escalate in conflict

Both passive-aggressive anger and active-aggressive anger harm relationships.This harm may occur in any relationship setting such as at work or church, but unfortunately it most often occurs within the family.Conflict may build to a high pitch and two or more people are hurt emotionally and/or physically. In passive-aggressive anger, the injured soul quietly and painfully stews over the incident and begins to give the offending person the silent treatment.The silent treatment is a “cold” warfare. The conflict is not resolved and results in harmful bitterness and depression.It is a lose-lose situation.


Active-aggressive anger is illustrated by Ben Carson’s story. It is the type of violence often portrayed on TV and is also a lose-lose situation, although the one inflicting violence may win the immediate argument.Violence destroys trust, the essential foundation of healthy relationships. Violence is not acceptable, and especially has no basis for defense within the most tender of human ties, the marriage relationship. Violence injures or destroys human life, which is created by God.Acts of violence ignite retaliatory violence, as history has shown.


At times, our communication with children, siblings, friends, work associates or spouse is difficult. If the problem is not dealt with, hurt feelings continue, with disastrous results.Divorce becomes an easy way out, or a teen runs away from home, and there may be depression and even suicide attempts. Sometimes people move religious or social club membership to another community or flee a problem by changing their workplace.


What is the solution? Work at learning how to solve the serious situation or concerns in a healthy way.And if it is not a big thing, drop it. It’s probably not worth fighting over or spending time on. Choose your battles and avoid the petty stuff.


Before we go too far into solutions, let’s get your opinion in an “agree or disagree” activity on the topic of conflict.This activity will bring to our attention some valuable skills that help relationships with family and others.


Activity: Agree? Or Disagree?

As you read the following statements, give a thumbs up if you agree, thumbs down if you disagree, and sideways if you don’t know.




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Agree or Disagree?

·    Conflict should always be avoided.

·    Wives seem to initiate conflicts more than husbands.

·    We usually follow the pattern of our parents in resolving problems.


  • When there is conflict in the home, it is better to give it time and it will work itself out on its own.
  • In a conflict situation, the other party may be responsible for our actions.
  • Unresolved conflict interferes with growth and satisfying relationships.


Ways many deal with conflict



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Ways many deal with Conflict

·    Accommodate = “lose/win”

·    Compete = “win/lose”

·    Avoid, escape = “lose/lose”

·    Silent treatment = “cold warfare”



1.Accommodate and simply give in to the wants of others.Those who give in usually don’t get their needs met.If it is not a major concern, then that is OK. The outcome is “lose/win.”


2.Compete to win and do anything to get your way. The outcome is “win/lose.” One way some people compete is victimization—blaming others. “You made me hit you. You make me angry.”


There are those who start conflict in an attempt to get everything they want by manipulation, getting angry, screaming, kicking, hitting, and throwing.One elderly woman recalled that she was this way when young but realized it was harmful to her health. Knowing this, she began learning how to solve her life problems in more healthy, happy ways.


3.Avoid the issues and walk away from conflict. Instead of facing the reality of the problem, the personescapes.One way of escaping is to use the silent treatment.When one husband and wife disagreed, he would silently put on his hat and go for a long walk. Walking away from a problem just postpones it.The outcome is “lose/lose.” Yet it is safer than violence, and sometimes the “walk time” is a good conflict-processing time. Sometimes avoiding immediate conflict is essential in protecting human life from violence.


However there are more positive ways of handling conflict which usually give better results as we move toward Peacemaking


Six positive options toward Peacemaking



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6 positive options toward Peacemaking






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Working Together

  1. Compromise = “win some/lose some.”
  2. Collaboration = “win/win.”



1. Compromise—This strategy results from a concern for your group’s interests along with a concern for the interests of others. At times one needs to give up something, and that is OK. The outcome: “win some/lose some.”


2. Collaborate—work together for a satisfactory solution. This results from a high concern for your group’s interest, matched with a high concern for the interests of other people. The outcome: “win/win.” This is a better way than accommodation, competition, or avoidance.



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3.   Reconcile

4.   Use of a spiritual mediator


3. Reconcile—moves us toward peacemaking. Some writers have observed that people say they forgive but they don’t reconcile. Reconciliation involves a return to unity and cooperation.Healthy dynamics of repentance, change, and forgiveness are integral to strong relationships. The outcome is win/win.


4. Use of a spiritual mediator—The process of peacemaking brings us back stepbystep to cordial understanding. Oftentimes individuals don’t have the skills or repertoire to do this. They need a resource person to give them a hand. You can obtain help by using a spiritual mediator to assist with peacemaking.



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5.   Pray a surrender prayer

6.   Wait for heaven and the Millennium


5. Pray a surrender prayer.Submit it to the God of justice, who is there to help when we call upon Him. Simply ask in prayer forhelp, wisdom, and guidance, and release the problem to God.But you still have to do your part in solving the problem.


6. Wait for heaven and the millennium. Although we may exert all our efforts and pray for divine guidance, some problems have no earthly solution. We can release conflict to God. Through this surrender, we can trust God’s providence, although we may have to wait for the millennium for complete understanding. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”[7]


Bible illustrations of conflict

As you read the Bible, you will notice characters involved in conflict. When Moses was leading the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, many people came asking him to judge between them, and he could not keep up with the workload.Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, saw what was happening and advised Moses to appoint assistants to share the load. Because Moses listened to advice, the problem was solved.



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Jacob at the Brook Jabbok

The well-known story of Jacob and Esau is another example of conflict resolution. Jacob was returning to Canaan,[8] the land of his father.He was alarmed to hear that Esau, his estranged brother whom he had deceived, was approaching him with four hundred warriors.Jacob’s heart beat faster with fear.He sent his family ahead and divided them into two groups for safety. Then, alone one night, he sought God’s deliverance.A Man appeared to Jacob and wrestled with him. Jacob struggled andfought with his unknown assailant for hours. Close to dawn. Jacob discovered he was wrestling not with a man but with God.


At that point, his attack strategy turned to a bear hug as he held on tight.Jacob reverently exclaimed, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”He did not want to let go unless he was forgiven and did not want to die until he had made peace with his brother Esau. He wanted to be forgiven by Esau whom he had deceived.At that moment of the night’s struggle, Jacob was truly broken and repentant. He asked God urgently to bless him, and God did bless him by transforming the scheming Jacob, whose name literally means “deceiver,” into a new person. Then he was given a new name, “Israel,” which means “Prince of God.” He surrendered his life totally to God’s will.


Surrender changes us, and we become nicer and easier to live with.The home is a more peaceful place. [TL4]


Conflicts are an opportunity for spiritual maturity and growth. As we work through a conflict in a positive way, we begin to better understand ourselves, as well as others. David in the Bible was in conflict through many of his early years because King Saul was jealous and hated him. Even though David was on the run, trying to keep from being killed, he still respected Saul as the anointed of the Lord and was deeply sad when Saul died.David wrote many prayers and psalms during these years.Maybe that is why God spoke of David as a man after His own heart.


How do I respond and properly communicate about difficult issues in the way God wants me to respond? I can’t. Not without Him—the Great Communicator— to help me.Like David, I can pray and seek to live after God’s own heart.


God has given us a good mind. When we ask Him in prayer, He helps us deal appropriately with conflict.He will teach us skills and put people in our path who will help us.He will give us wisdom and information.At times He will send angels to direct us to a text in the Bible or a page in a book that helps us process our concern.He works on our attitude and gives us healing words that set us free. We must keep working at solving problems in the positive way.Don’t give up.





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Transformational Communication

·    How do we communicate and process our problems in time of conflict without hurting each other? How do we solve important issues so there is agreement and in the end “you win and I win”?


There can be agreeable “win-win” conclusions. When this happens we are actually glorifying God by our actions, and more beautiful characters can emerge in both parties.



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  • Conflicts are actually an opportunity time for spiritual maturity and growth.
  • How do I respond and properly communicate to difficult issues in the way that God wants me to respond? I can’t. Not without Him—the Great Communicator—, to help me.


From trauma to transformation

How can we get to the root of anger and conflict?


Have you noticed that the Bible recounts lots of family conflicts? There were blaming and lies, misunderstandings and bitterness, sexual sins, sibling rivalry, scheming, and many differences of opinion within families. It began with Adam and Eve. They played the blaming game from the very beginning with the first sin, when Adam passed the “credit” along: “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”[9]


Then there was the conflict between the first siblings, Cain and Abel, which ended in homicide. Cain killed his brother because he was jealous and angry.[10]



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Cain & Abel and their sacrifices



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Cain rises up against his brother


Today, even if our problems are longstanding, when we stop blaming others and face up to our own issues and pray to God, He will help us with any personal crisis. There is nothing too difficult for Him. God starts changing us if we are willing, and will even change us from being a deceiver to being a prince or princess of God, as He did for Jacob. Like Jacob, we need to fall on the rock of Jesus and be broken. God is the God of the impossible. When our conflicts seem irreconcilable, God will make a way where there seems to be no way. We are empowered for victorious living with good family relationships.


Concepts from the Bible apply today

Judy had two beautiful antique crystal bowls given to her by a very poor relative she had visited in a European communist country.It was a sacrificial love gift to Judy that had great sentimental value. When a relative was having a wedding reception, Judy offered her precious bowls to be used at the occasion.


After the wedding celebration was over and loaned items returned, Judy discovered one of her lovely antique bowls had been broken and the other sold.Judy was extremely upset and disappointed about her loss and kept thinking about it.Judy’s husband, a peacemaker, tried to comfort her with, “Don’t feel bad. I will buy other ones for you.”


But the bowlscould not be replaced anywhere in her country, so that did not console Judy.Besides, no purchased bowls would have the same sentimental value.Later her husband commented, “You know people are more important than things,” on which Judy reflected and later acknowledged to be true.It took a little time to process her loss, but Judy knew her husband was correct.People are more important than things. When Judy released her loss to God, peace returned and emotional healing took place by her choice and God’s help.


There are times that I may have to give up on something that is important to me for the good of all concerned. The end goal is peace, understanding, and love for one another, which is of more importance than some other desired results.


The “gentle response” principle

“A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.”[11]



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The “Gentle Response” Principle

“A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.”

–Proverbs 15:1 (The Message)


The strong can afford to be gentle and soft. Today the macho man thinks that he has to prove something. He has to prove he is strong, so he lashes out with his tongue. But in reality, the strong can afford to be gentle. The strongest are the most tender.


Today, millions are enslaved by anger, bitterness, disappointments, misunderstanding, and jealousy. They are miserable people. But God is there to set the captives free and to break that emotional bondage.He is there when we find ourselves in miserable conflicts and call upon Him. We submissively go to God for help. He will guide us through the difficult moments of life.


A parent became angry at a school teacher for a minor problem, which then upset the teacher. A friend advised the teacher,“Don’t let little people and little things get you down.”In other words, “Major in the majors and not in minor problems.” Don’t let little things offend.Drop the charges. Say to yourself, “It’s no big deal.” This teacher decided that communicating kindly and trying to understand the parent’s point of view was a better option than hurting over the situation. The problem was diffused, and peace reigned.


Paul gives us good advice: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men . . . and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble.”[12]


Cosmic conflict between good and evil



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Cosmic conflict between good and evil

Graphic of Satan being cast out of heaven into the earth.






Conflict began in heaven.Satan was jealous of Jesus and rallied followers to his side.When the issues became clear, Satan was thrown out of heaven(Revelation 12:7–9).This conflict has extended to planet Earth. Today we still live in the midst of that raging battle, which erupts in marriages, families, businesses, churches, and governments.Satan is the inventor of conflict and enjoys bringing discord, disagreements, disputes, and lots of friction into relationships.


  • He doesn’t play fair, so beware.
  • He arouses suspicion, jealousy, and evil surmising.
  • He makes efforts to subvert the mind.
  • He causes misinterpretation of the message.
  • He wants to prevent harmony and happiness.
  • He distorts innocent comments into faults.
  • He intrudes in marriages and families and tries to break them up.
  • He bewitches.
  • He brings dissension and division.


The very best way to fight the battle is with a prayer for God’s intervention. God is more powerful than Satan, and He will help us in this fight. The battle between Christ and Satan was won at the cross at Calvary.Jesus will give us victory over anger and life-destroying conflict. Remember, Satan’s days are numbered, and in heaven there will be no more battles.Hurray!



                                                           The Serenity Prayer                PowerPoint©Slide 22


God, give us grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

And the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

—Reinhold Niebuhr
















Group Discussion


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1.  What part does selfishness play in initiating conflict?

2.  What is your best way of resolving a conflict in a      positive way?

3.  What are some of the health dangers of conflict?



Personal Reflections


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Personal Reflections

1. Do you have an unresolved conflict in your life? What conflict resolution skill might you use to resolve the issue for the good of all involved?

2. What blocks you from effective communication and problem solving?  What intentional steps can you take to do something about it?






Conflict Resolution Skills


  1. Use “I” messages with feeling words. “I am disappointed that this can’t be done.”
  2. Avoid “You” messages such as “You always,” “You never,” “You should.” These tend to awaken a defensive attitude in the hearer. Do not use belittling names.
  3. When problems become heated up, take time out for processing and praying. Later return to discuss the issues after tempers are cooled. Intense emotions compromise and even shut down the reasoning centers of the brain.
  4. Do positive self-talk, and work through the problem in a positive way; choose not to let little things throw you into an emotionally unhealthy spin.
  5. Brainstorm by listing alternate ways of solving a problem. Some ideas may seem ridiculous at first that, in the end, may work. Evaluate ideas given. Consider what is the best idea, or combine ideas and try them to see if they are workable, and if not, adjust them.
  6. One person at a time talks until they have fully expressed their concern. Then they silently listen as the other shares. Don’t interrupt. Repeat this process several times until the problem is clarified. A final decision may be made after prayer at a later time.
  7. Overlook minor offenses—choose your battles.
  8. One famous statesman said, “Disagree without being disagreeable.” Another one added his personal touch: “The thing to do is put your arms around one another and work for a solution.”
  9. When things are tough, pray.
  10. Give the gift of love by giving up your rights and being unselfish. It pays off.
  11. Be forgiving and do not let bitterness produce poisonous toxins in the body.
  12. Remember that Satan uses good people to hurt good people. Ask God to give you wisdom to help solve the problem, to show you what should be done so all concerned are winners.
  13. Avoid violence. Protect limb and life.
  14. Research the biblical steps of resolving conflict.
  15. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


1. Ben Carson with Cecil Murphey, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1990), 19.


 3. T. Miller, T. Smith, C. Turner, M. Guijarro, and A. Hallet, “A meta-analytic review of research on hostility and physical health,” Psychological Bulletin 119, no. 2 (March 1996): 322–348. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.119.2.322. 1996.

[3]. Charlotte van Oyen Witvliet, “Forgiveness and health: Review and reflections on a matter of faith, feelings, and physiology,” Journal of Psychology and Theology 29, no. 3 (2001), 212–224.

[4]. Redford Williams and Virginia Williams, Anger Kills: Seventeen Strategies for Controlling the Hostility That Can Harm Your Health. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994.

[5]. Witvliet, “Forgiveness and health,” 212–224.

[6]. David Mace, Love and Anger in Marriage, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1982; Williams and Williams, Anger Kills, 40–41.

[7]. 1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT.

[8]. Genesis 32.

[9]. Genesis 3:12.

[10]. See Genesis 4.

[11]. Proverbs 15:1, The Message.

[12]. Hebrews 12:14, 15, NIV.

 [TL1]Should this be 23? This is chapter 23.

 [TL2]What page number (or page range) in the book is this referring to?

 [TL3]I was not able to verify that this subject is discussed on these pages of the book.

 [TL4]This sentence does not follow from the previous paragraph. Expand? Delete? Move elsewhere?


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