Monday, May 16, 2016

Navigating Conflict : A Field Guide

     Conflict is essential to a writer, because without a conflict, there is no story. Without the big bad wolf, the three little pigs wouldn't have much going on. I appreciate conflict as a tool in writing, but when it comes to other aspects of my life, I tend to avoid it because it makes me so uncomfortable. I am by nature a conflict adverse person, and sometimes I lean on what I believe as a way to avoid being involved in situations where conflict is likely to be present. But there are some circumstances where conflict seems unavoidable, and I've encountered a lot of them recently and been unsure about what to do. As I was thinking about this, I thought of the story of Jesus turning over tables in the temple. I don't really know why I thought about this story, because it's not exactly on the greatest hits list for Sunday sermons. We like to talk about Jesus healing people and teaching about love, but it's sort of uncomfortable to think about him getting angry, so maybe that's why this particular story isn't one I've heard talked about very much.  Since I didn't know much about it, I did what any millennial with a question would do, I Googled it.I'm not a Bible scholar and I've never been to seminary, so maybe I'm completely off. But you probably already know that and you have decided to read this blog anyway, so here we go.
      After reading some commentary on this scripture and watching a few YouTube videos of sermons about it (there's a glimpse into the state of my social life and the amount of free time I have!), I came to the tentative conclusion that Jesus was angry because certain people were being mistreated and shortchanged, which limited their access to their place of worship. He must have believed that in order for this situation to be resolved, he needed to disturb the peace and stir up some unrest. As I said, there have been some situations in my life that have stirred up some feelings of unrest and maybe even conflict, so I have come up with some thoughts about what it might be good to do in these situations.

Pick your battles:  Tonight I saw a news story about the legislation of fantasy sports. I admit I wasn't paying full attention to the whole thing, but apparently some states are starting to regulate them because they could be classified as gambling in some cases. I couldn't help but laugh to myself about this "first world problem.", but I also felt a bit sad thinking about all of the other problems in the world that are being pushed aside in order to spend time on what I see as a very trivial issue. Clearly, this is not my battle to fight, but to someone else it's apparently very important, so I acknowledged that and moved on with my life.
I've been in several situations lately where I've been unsure whether to fight certain battles, and really the only thing I know to do about that is pray, and talk to people I trust. I'm still working on this one, but I

Stand your ground, but don't take root:  For conflict adverse people like me, it can be tempting to just drop a subject when things get tense. But when I do this, nothing gets solved and I
On the other hand, it's a terrible feeling to be neck deep in an argument, only to suddenly realize that what you are arguing about isn't even important. I sometimes have to remind myself that it's okay to drop an issue if I discover that dropping it would actually be more productive than resolving it. As a person who spends lots of time with children, I sometimes have to stop myself and say "You are arguing with a five year old about ketchup. Is this helping anything?" Sometimes, if no rules are being broken and no one is being disrespectful or endangering the people around them, it's best to walk away from the issue. It's fun to be right, but it's not worth hurting people or destroying relationships.

Above All, Love: My interpretation of this has changed as I've gotten older and gained more life experiences. While it would be wonderful if we could reach a point where we can find a compromise for every issue, we live in a broken world where evil does have an influence, so there will always be someone arguing about something.  I'm going to encounter conflict, and burying my head in the sand won't make it go away, but neither will compromising on every issue
     Sometimes you have to love people from a distance because they have become a toxic presence in your life, and sometimes you have to walk away from situations and environments that aren't aligned with what you believe. In some cases, you will need to speak up when you see that something is wrong, instead of hoping someone else will do something about it. Loving everyone does not mean being a doormat, and you can even love people while disagreeing with them. Love is by definition the opposite of hate, and no situation in the history of the world, at least not that I'm aware of, has been improved or resolved because of hate.
     So even though I still have doubts and questions, I think maybe the point is to know when to overturn the tables and when to leave them alone. In my flawed humanity, I know that sometimes I will overturn the wrong tables, so I'm thankful for the gift of grace that covers every mistake.

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