Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Living a Life Not Defined by Conflict

Don’t we just have to laugh ourselves at times—times when we have an inordinate amount of conflict in our lives? Recently, as I reflected over my year I recounted over one week six months ago the amount of little conflicts I’d had with different people. I’m talking the ‘agreeing to disagree’ i.e. non-argument sort of conflict—but at a level I journalled about all the same. There were four instances with four different people in four completely different situations. Talk about food for thought; and me as the common denominator!

But first, let’s take a look at the effect this sort of annoying conflict ordinarily has on us. Well, for me, I recall via my journal that my thinking began to get clouded and even impacted—not by the conflicts themselves—but by the people who were ‘affecting me.’

I began to personalise the conflicts, making attributions as to why this person wanted to be difficult with me, or why that person didn’t see the world like I did. I began to see each of these people as an intrinsic piece of a trouble-making jigsaw.

Yet, I hardly saw my own input and perhaps my own reticence to go some part their way as a part of the conflict for them. I was seeing beyond the individual conflicts into the (apparent, for me) faulty worldview of each person. I sound like I was well on the road to delusion, don’t I?

Secondly, and even worse, as part of the process for these incorrect attributions of others being wrong and myself being right, my worldview was beginning to become coloured to not trusting these people due to the conflicts; and further to a lack of trust overall. A vicious cycle was developing, and all in one week.

I said before that it was only later that I determined myself to be the common denominator. I was the common link in this symphony of little strife. For each of these individuals I was perhaps just being painful, but to me it was fourfold worse, and again it was coloured by my negative perception.

We live in a cut-throat world unfortunately. As part of that reality we’re often seduced into throwing others to the wolves in protecting our own lots. This happens without a lot of thought most of the time. We watch ourselves and we see.

To negotiate these conflict-riddled seasons we need to get above our worlds and see our present folly. When the light beckoned for me suddenly, I was embarrassed initially, and then relieved... a freedom returned and so too the lightness in my spirit.

We need to be people very committed to the truth, for if we’re not, our sails will be blown to the tune of the breeze of our own selfish whims and desires—a no-win situation for everyone.

One of the only ways we can truly live lives not defined by conflict is if we continually make an agreement with the graceful truth. This is at least twofold:

è We ask, ‘How important is it?’ How important is this issue that causes or produces the conflict? Is it the issue or the person? Why are we getting emotional? And, if we’re emotional, how coloured is our perception in that moment? (When we get emotional, reason and logic tend to cruise right out the door of our consciousness.)

è We need to know what truth there is that we ordinarily refuse to face—the truth about ourselves, not others. And we decide to give others the benefit of the doubt, even if it doesn’t make much sense—provided the cost is something we can reasonably bear.

For the most part, the costs of conflict are outweighed by the benefits in purely giving people their own way, particularly if there’s even a shred of good rationale about their view. By far and away the majority of circumstances in life (with reasonable people) involve good reason.

I’m constantly overwhelmed about others’ responses to me when I give them their way. Most often they can’t wait to reciprocate—if nothing else but a warm smile and a willing trust return to our rapport. We often underestimate the warmth of rapport.

It’s amazing how often we can be the stumbling blocks at the very same time we think the other person is!

© 2009 S. J. Wickham.

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