Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 1 Peter 3:13-14
Earlier this morning, I was having a great discussion with someone about various things, and I brought up that “I don’t like conflict.”
As we continued to talk, much as I often do, I began to probe and ask myself why that really is.
I used to think it was just because I am a wimp. Then later in life, I thought it was that I cared too much about what other people were thinking or feeling.
I have often found myself either placed in the role, or taking upon the task of being the mediator or peace keeper. I think I am kind of sponge-like in some ways – I sense undercurrent more than most others do, and it actually impacts me (I can’t leave it alone if it doesn’t dissipate).
Same holds true when it is me involved in the conflict – I start thinking I have to control how it’s handled. Then, ironically, I screw up myself in that process if I don’t feel I am making reasonable headway.
But I think today I realized another dynamic at play in why this distresses me so and it was something that I never really understood about myself before.
I really don’t mind some types of conflict, I just don’t like UNPRODUCTIVE conflict.
I really don’t so much mind conflict that is handled in an adult-like manner. I find that if others aren’t doing so, I become the biggest tantrum-throwing child of everyone involved. If not externally, I sure do internally.
I have to have it my way or I get frustrated. I have to see that people aren’t just wanting to argue or be smarter, or better, or bigger, or whatever – otherwise, I call it “unreasonable” and end up being the most unreasonable person in the bunch.
It’s not comfortable to disagree. But I can see that if folks are willing to be transparent and honest, but have a goal to understand and clarify, and most of all, be solution-oriented, I am okay with that type of conflict.
I WANT to understand others. And I want to be understood as well if it will lend to being productive, learning, and becoming better for it.
Unfortunately, that is not how we operate much of the time as humans. So often, we do the following things and more….
Fight to fight and not give a darn about the work it takes to come to an understanding or solution.
Fight to “win” versus to understand.
Argue for the sake of it – for pride, selfishness, stubborness, or mere frustration.
But most of all, I feel that we don’t handle conflict productively more often than not, due to an unwillingness to be transparent.
You know – ALL the way honest.
It’s cause we’re scared in some way – fear is the enemy. So we fight instead – with little intention of learning and growing and loving and understanding, and lots of attention to hiding the fear.
We go halfway, if even that. We are willing to be right out there and bold sometimes to get our anger, stress, or frustrations out “in the open”, but when it comes to root issues (feelings behind the anger, fears, emotions, vulnerabilities) we hold back. BIG time!
We layer the anger on top of all this stuff we’re intent upon concealing. And then we proceed to hide behind “hey, I’m up-front about it when I am mad” junk like that.
If we are going to have differences, and we decide to air them because we find after praying and seeking the Lord and searching the scriptures that we should deal with it openly, then we need to go all the way and see the whole thing through.
But for me, the other thing I have to learn is the fact that even though this is how I feel it should be dealt with, there will always be that unjustified kind of anger or conflict in life to deal with and there will always be times we have to face that kind of unhealthy stuff.
Guess what? This area is the one I fail in the most.
I am still responsible for how I handle myself at those times. I don’t do a very good job of it. Those are the times I really, really need God’s divine power, and I fail to ask for it right when I need it the most.
I think of Jesus – whenever He could, He chose to talk things out, teach lessons, emphasize love, even when He had to share the tough stuff or the hard-to-hear kind of things that few were receptive to, and many were downright hateful about it.
And He faced mobs, people spitting upon Him and in His face, and ultimately, a brutal death.
But even from that, He emerges triumphant. Even when He faced the most unhealthy type of “conflict” there ever could possibly be, He showed us unfailing love.
Sometimes Jesus spoke up quite loudly. Other times, He remained silent. It was often during the worst of the fighting and unproductive and downright horrific stuff that He chose the latter.
I am not sure what all He wants to teach me in this, but for now, I think it is to continue to try to seek to understand, even or especially when others don’t wish to do so, stop myself if I find that I am part of the conflict and not handling it right, and become stronger (by His power and His Spirit) day by day.
Sometimes we have to do the hard things. We can’t always hide from conflict or be the mediator or the peacemaker. We can’t throw up our hands and get frustrated and just leave things alone or sweep them under the rug either. If you, like me, feel like you still mess up in this area far too often, go to Jesus and ask for the wisdom, discernment, power, and teachable spirit that you may need to become more like what He wants for you to be.
That is pretty much the only thing that’s always worth fighting for anyway – the endeavor to follow after Christ and seek to become more and more like Him every single day.
And there’s nothing to fear in that.
It’s scary to be involved in fighting, unhealthy-seeming conflict, or even undercurrents that you know are there but aren’t being dealt with properly. But Jesus will help us to fight the good fight – the one that is against the fleshly desires we face every second that we are breathing. And we will emerge victorious in Him.
Fight the Frights.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10