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Monday Musings – Living with Conflict

conflict

It was a Facebook post from a friend of mine that got me thinking about this topic. I was going to make a comment but thought that instead of doing that, I’m dedicating this blog post to him. This is for you friend.

Conflict is inevitable. If you’re human, you will know this all too well. We live in a world where conflict runs rampant. Turn on the news and you’ll know what I mean. Conflict is everywhere.

It is easy to think of conflict as an idea until that conflict becomes personal. Suddenly, conflict becomes real. Now, you have to do something about it because you have no choice but to deal with it. Refusal to deal with it is still dealing with it. Honestly, this has probably been the way that I have dealt with conflict for most of my life. Either I try to avoid it or refuse to deal with it. Both are not the best options… but it sure ranks as my top two responses to conflict.

When we refuse to deal with the conflict, it has a way of forcing us to deal with it. Something will happen that will conjure up previous memories of how someone has wronged you. While the situation might change, your reaction to that person stays the same. I have had to deal with situations in the past when I felt I was wronged or disrespected by a friend. However, during the time that it happened, I didn’t say anything. Silence does not mean that you have forgotten the hurtful words or actions they have done. Fast forward to a different time and place in the future and that same person does the same thing again. This time your reactions seems rather overboard compared to the situation but it’s because you have held on to that anger. As a result, your reaction has doubled or tripled. Refusing to deal with conflict can sometimes exacerbate it instead of diminishing it.

Sometimes, we can’t avoid the person who is the source of our conflict. In my case, we were roommates. We had similar personalities but where we differed, we really differed.  We both knew that there was a problem. He wanted to deal with it but I didn’t. I ended up isolating myself from him and others who were associated with him. That is not the way that conflict should be handled. Eventually, we sat down and we got real. We told each other what bothered us about the other person and how we can minimize future conflict. We got to know one another in a new light. Instead of trying to be understood, we tried to understand each other. I had the privilege of being a groom’s man at his wedding. If you would have told me that a few years earlier, I would have thought it impossible.

I still hate conflict. If anything, my top two responses to conflict hasn’t changed. But I have also learned that conflict can be the best thing that can happen in your relationship if you handle conflict properly. Conflict resolution has the potential to bring two people together in a more intimate and authentic way. However, there are also times when the best way to handle conflict is to part ways amicably and “wish nothing but the best” for that person. Trying to figure out which is the best option requires time, maturity and wisdom.

Whatever happens, conflict is here to stay. The question is: how will you deal with it? Will you let it affect your life in a negative way or will you allow it to be a catalyst for better living? The choice is yours to make.

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The importance of free speech

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We live in a world of diverse ideas and opinions. Everyone seems to be an expert in something. The concept of right and wrong in a pluralistic environment can seem so rhetorical and passé. Absolute truth does not exist (or at least, out of our grasp) and relativism reigns supreme in terms of the prevailing ideological zeitgeist. To live amidst such a chaotic world can sometimes be infuriating and overwhelming. But, there is something quite beautiful about it all. There is beauty in the chaos.

When I think of communist countries, or countries ruled by dictators, the picture changes. Voices of dissent are stifled, sometimes stilled, by either threats, persecution or even death. There is no flourishing of ideas. There are no arguments. Silence is the name of the game. To break that silence is to court potential harm and danger. In such a world, words are rendered impotent.

When I went to university, I was exposed to a lot of ideas. Some ideas I agreed with, some ideas I disagreed with. In fact, I STRONGLY disagreed with some ideas. As much as it boggled my mind that someone could actually think such foolishness as I believed their views were, I am really happy that they are free to say whatever they said. I’m happy that just because they disagreed with me did not mean that their life should have been threatened or eliminated. I’m happy that my country (Canada) stands up for the rights of people in the minority whose views are decidedly different from others.

Armed with this freedom to speak whatever we want, let us be cognizant of the responsibility that we all must share in having this gift. Let us use this gift to further causes that will help humanity and not to oppress it. Let us use it with kindness and not with anger or malice. It’s ok to disagree with others. But it is never ok to humiliate or denigrate others who have differing views to ours. It is never ok to use this freedom to promote immorality or injustice. Let’s make sure that this freedom will promote more freedom with the people we encounter.

Words are powerful. They have the power to bind someone in chains of oppression or it can release them from bondage as well. The fact that we have the freedom to use words freely, does not entitle us to freely waste it. I love this phrase from the Book of Isaiah where it says “come, let us reason together.” We may have conflicting views, but it does not mean that we should live in conflict with each other. Let us use our words to persuade, not mandate. May our freedom to speak freely allow us to speak more humbly and wisely. May it encourage more words of life and encouragement instead of death and despair.

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