It should always be read and written in bold and CAPITAL letters. For that is how it looks and feels in my life.
Big. Unavoidable. Startling. Hard.
I think I’ve learned more about conflict in the past 4 years than any other time in my life. It makes sense. I have chosen to stay married and in deep relationship with my husband. I had my first child. I became deeply committed to a specific community of people trying to follow Jesus and love each other.
Oh, how beautiful! Marriage! Children! Community! And CONFLICT, CONFLICT, CONFLICT out the proverbial wazoo!!
I’ve been in CONFLICT with my husband, my child, my sister, my parents, my in-laws, my husbands grandparents, my friends, my co-workers, my Jesus. I’ve often made really poor choices. I’ve tried to stay safe by staying quiet, by pretending, by playing games, by lying, and by running away. I’ve taken responsibility that wasn’t mine and I’ve refused to accept responsibility when it was mine. I haven’t been humble or honest.
I’ve also made some good choices. I’ve let go of things that I could honestly let go of and practice forgiveness. I’ve written letters and had conversations where I apologized and accepted responsibility and was humbled to accept forgiveness. I’ve tried to stay safe and therefore make different choices regarding events and conversations so that I could be the most honest for everyone.
It’s been so difficult. I’ve learned so many good tools to work with CONFLICT and yet I still feel that I am standing at Square One.
Sometimes my good tools don’t work the way I want them to. Sometimes my honesty confuses and hurts and seems to make things worse. Sometimes I think I use my tools incorrectly. It’s obvious that I still have much to learn. Even more obvious to me is that no matter how much practice and learning I do this will still be hard.
It can’t be easy. It just can’t be! It’s too difficult to hear that you’ve caused some confusion, failed to meet expectations, or hurt someone. It’s too difficult to step out and tell someone they’ve done those same things to you. Especially when it’s someone you love or care about.
It’s hard to be humble and honest. Oh, so hard.
There is a miracle that I’ve witnessed and even participated in several times in 4 years. I mean real, true, supernatural miracles.
I’ve sat at tables with friends and loved ones. My tummy churning, my face burning, my heart so scared and sad. And there was CONFLICT. Confusion, unexpressed expectations, misinterpreted words, built up resentment, unforgiveness, dishonesty, withholding, anger. And I have seen all of that processed and turn slowly from a mess of fast rolling, quick growing chaos into bits of peace, hope, forgiveness, clarity, understanding, and love that are men and women taking time to be honest, to listen, to look and to be humble and honest. And they’ve stayed friends! We’ve stayed friends!! Can you even believe it?!
It doesn’t always happen. I keep trying different ways to handle CONFLICT with some family member and honestly, in this moment, I have no idea what to do. No idea. I keep thinking about it. And still, no idea. So, I’m trying to handle each moment individually. I don’t have to have some big game plan that I work at, but little moment by moment plans that reflect the honesty that I can give for me and for them. I don’t know if it will work. I’ll let you know in a few months. CONFLICT by Christa, Part II.
But, sometimes it does happen. It does! And it’s really a thing of beauty. Really. It’s one of those times where I would say, “I would do this again to experience this lovely aftermath of continued friendship and commitment.”
All of this brings back the earliest memory of CONFLICT that I have. I was small and my parents were fighting in their bedroom. My mom standing in front of the dresser, my dad over by the window. And I was scared. I remember walking in and thinking that somehow my dad was at fault because my mom was crying. I remember my mom telling me it was okay and that I should leave the room, which I did. But they still fought. I’ve never asked them if they remember that moment. I think the little girl in me is scared to cause more CONFLICT. There was no abuse in the fight, but there were loud voices from both and tears from my mother. I’ve carried the emotions from that moment throughout my life. I think that this caused me to feel that fighting in front of my children would be a bad thing. And, it is…and yet…when I do fight with my husband in front of my daughter (as I am sad that I have done and will do again) I have come to believe that I have the chance to model something for her. I have the opportunity to show her that anger is okay. CONFLICT is okay. I can do my best to stay calm, I can be honest, I can stand up for myself, I can apologize, I can show humility and I can show that above all, LOVE is bigger than conflict. I can still LOVE Daddy even though he hurt me, or I hurt him.
There is much opportunity in the moments of conflict. Much positivity. It requires a lot of trust, bravery, honesty and humility. But, there is something bigger than conflict. LOVE really can win. It’s the only thing that can win gracefully and without keeping a record. I’m not that big. And neither is conflict.