Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On Conflict

Conflict is such an ugly word.

Or at least, that is how most people view it.  Truthfully, if I were to mention that I was experiencing some conflict with another individual, wouldn't you think that it was probably a bad thing?  I know I would view it as such because that is the culture I live in.

We view conflict as something that goes in tandem with anger, raised voices, "low blows", and sometimes just straight fighting.  But it is a little more complicated than that.

The fact of the matter is, conflict is a neutral party in all of that.  

That's right, conflict is inherently neutral.  It really boils down to people's reactions when there is conflict, or perceived conflict (pseudo-conflict).

And there is a large variety of reactions to conflict aren't there?  Some choose to face it head on with fire and passion, others try to avoid it all together at all costs, still others might approach conflict with a level head and not bring up the conflict until they feel ready, and the list goes on and on.

Sometimes it leads to the conflict being explosive, and sometimes it is quiet and subtle.  Sometimes it is never resolved, and I feel that might be the most damaging of all.  Assuming of course that all true conflict is over important things.

But there's the rub.  Not all conflict is truly significant.  That is why we have anecdotes like, "know when to pick your fights".  Because sometimes the conflict isn't worth it.  Sometimes the conflict is about how the silverware is placed in the drawer (guilty), or whether or not the toilet paper goes over or under, or if you should have gotten grape instead of strawberry jelly.  Simple things.  Little things.  A whole lot of nothing.

When those moments happen.  When I get riled up over the little things I find that 90% of the time there is something deeper rooted in my heart.  And I have to double check myself frequently when it comes to that sort of thing.  Which, lately, is happening more often than I'd like.

Because, I don't really care if the spoons go on the right, and forks in the middle.  What I do care about is that not having it that way changes how I understand order in my kitchen.  Which can be surprisingly disorienting when you have had it one way for two years and suddenly it's different.

Because they don't really care that you bought grape jelly, what they care about is the fact that they felt you weren't listening when they specifically asked you to get strawberry.

It is, however, really about how the toilet paper is oriented.  That's important stuff!

Only joking.

In truth, many of the more significant conflicts we encounter in our lives have multiple layers of importance.  

For example, if you, my reader, had an issue with me as an author or on a more personal level because of something I said, wrote, did, I would expect you to come and address the issue with me.  That is the way I've always been (I'm a conflict confront-er if you haven't noticed yet).  So when it doesn't happen and I hear about the issue through some other means (because it always seems to come to light eventually) I get a little frustrated, sometimes mad.

I would find myself, then, in conflict with you.  And my reasons may not be what you would expect.  Yes, I expect to be told of conflict because I'd rather resolve it and move on rather than let it stew in a pot of emotions for a while and blow up into hurtful words and broken hearts later. 

But that's just the surface of it. 

I know that deeper rooted in it all I feel like you don't trust me to approach our conflict with a level head.  Or that you think I'll just dismiss what you have to say and thus don't even try.  

Deeper than that I might feel that you don't respect me enough as my friend to try to resolve the issue.  That you don't actually care to make it work and are in this friendship for your own selfish motives.

While none of that may be true, I know that is how I would probably feel.  I'm just as guilty of making others feel that way I'm sure.  It comes with the territory of being human.  So many layers, to so many things, that it takes a lifetime to peel them all back.  Even then, you're just scratching the surface.  

It is amazing how incredibly complex we are.  And conflict is just one of the many things that help us learn about ourselves.  Because peeling off layers is actually quite painful most of the time.  But if we don't shed the skin of old selves and keep improving then we never grow.  We never mature.

That is why I don't actually hate conflict at the end of the day.  I certainly don't like it.  It's painful, it's awkward, and leads to a lot of vulnerabilities if approached correctly. But I also know that it can be very healthy; and helpful in creating self-awareness.

Conflict, in its natural neutrality, has its place in our universe.  And it can be so, so good!  And it can be so, so, so horrible.

It all comes down to the individual.

Just my two cents for today.

Grace and Peace

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