Friday, February 19, 2010

Reluctant Confronter

The questions were posed to a group of us.

"So how many of you feel comfortable with conflict?"

"How many of you had good conflict resolution modeled for you when your were growing up?"

The silence was deafening. In our head we could list the reasons why conflict can be good. After all the textbooks say that conflict is a doorway to opportunity. It opens the widows letting in fresh air. It's a launching pad for fresh new insights and agreements. Ya da ya da ya da.

Conflict is also hard. Who hasn't felt like the loser of a twelve round fight at time? Sometimes doors close and the windows are shattered. And, in all honesty, how many people stay at the table long enough to forge those creative win-win agreements.

I'm wary of conflict. When the shadow side of myself takes over I tend to be controlled by fear. And I handle fear by taking everything inside. My first tendency in any conflict is to blame myself. I know, I know it's not good. But remember that's the shadow side of myself.

There's another side of me that will wade into tumultuous water. If I sense an injustice is being done to someone I'll wade into the fray. I find it easier to enter into conflict when I'm going to battle for someone else especially if I know that someone lacks the resources in the moment to fight for themselves.

When I speak to a large group of people I don't mind talking about tough issues. One on one is harder. Interesting.

Sometimes conflict is hard for me because I know that others struggle with doing conflict right. They run, they hide, they lash out. So few of us know how to navigate the tricky roads of conflict resolution.

In our culture we don't do conflict well. We've become a name calling group of people hiding behind hearsay and slogans. It's going to be the death of us. As a result angry people are shouting so loudly that they become more of a problem than those they're shouting about. The medium is the message you know.

Conflict is hard. My wife has probably taught me more about doing conflict well than anyone. It's amazing how safe 'conflict' becomes when you know that acceptance, forgiveness, and resolution is part of the other person's DNA.

I want to be better at confronting. I want to walk through the front door of conflict, make my point, listen for understanding, seek common ground and walk away with my dignity intact. It's an old lesson. The only person I can control in the midst of conflict is myself. My job is to be a reconciling personality in a divisive world.

Of course, I've got to deal with that shadowy fear issue and resist the temptation to withdraw too far into myself. And then I have to pick my battles wisely otherwise I'll be battling all the time. Injustice is worth confronting on both the personal and systemic level. Matters of faith and morality are worth standing up for. Speaking up for the voiceless is a gospel imperative. And sticking up for that good person (me) God created is a noble endeavor.

Still thinking it through.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find that a lot of conflicts are mishandled due to pride. Before we confront the issue and enter the "battlefield", we really need to dig deep and ask ourselves what our true motives are. If we treat the situation with God's Kingdom in mind, we automatically remove ourselves from the center, which most often will shine a different light on the problem.
A great exaqmple is how the conflict between Paul and Barnabas was handled. Atcs 15:36-41
Keep the focus on God, not the conflict.
Easy? I don't think so!