I have never been one to shy away from conflict. I say this with the understanding that I do not want conflict for conflict’s sake, but rather that conflict doesn’t frighten me. Many people I know do not agree with this and instead they consider conflict something to fear. I think for some people conflict makes it feel like everything is falling apart. The world as they know it will cease to exist and disagreement is not only a sign that things are seriously wrong, but also that they are broken and can never be fixed. Yes, this is a bit extreme, I am sure most people probably fall into the feelings of this is wrong, we shouldn’t be fighting or disagreeing or my opinion is unwelcome. I am not a fan of either of those lines of thinking. In fact, I believe the opposite. I have often been a fan of conflict. I like it when people are willing to disagree and put themselves out there.
Part of me likes the broken down messiness of a “fight” (meaning people stating differing opinions verbally, not physically, I am NOT a fan of physical conflict just to be clear), not because I enjoy the process, although it isn’t the worst, but what I really love is the result. I like to sit there with all the facts and opinions laid out before me and then I feel like I can see the next place to go the logical next step. Once people have lost their facades and their composure the truth is revealed. Conflict often is a space for people to say what they are thinking but are either afraid to share or wouldn’t choose to share because it feels mean and unkind. Once these truths are revealed I find it easy to piece it all back together to see the points of view and to make what I believe to be an objective decision, although as a human being I am actually incapable of doing so. I find though the knowing to be satisfying and the conflict to be a way to gain the freedom to speak your mind.
As a child, this came in the form of loud arguments and as I have aged, I have grown. Now my conflicts are not yelling matches, but rather are discussions, and I am listening and hearing as well as sharing. I have learned that truths do not need conflict to be revealed, but rather trust can do the same thing. In a space of trust and understanding, I gain the freedom (or in fact give myself permission to be free) to say what I really feel, to share my fears and doubts, to say what is running through my mind and driving me mad. I can do this in a way that isn’t rude or mean, that doesn’t involve loud voices and violent tones, but in calm voices in a space of love and acceptance.
If I had told my younger self that, I am not sure I would have listened. I would have believed that I was being foolish, or that I was just opening myself up for pain and hurt and disappointment. Part of me wants to give that girl a hug and tell her it is okay, she doesn’t have to do it all alone. It is okay to trust, and to let others in, it is okay to share the burden, it doesn’t make you weak, but in fact shows a new kind of strength. A strength you share with others, a way to realize that you are at risk for pain, but you are also at risk for tremendous joy. You cannot have one without the other. Conflict is not bad in and of it’s own right, how we choose to react and respond to it can be, and disagreements can feel like a risk, sharing something that isn’t popular can be hard. I am not suggesting we all share all of our unpopular opinions all of the time, but what I can suggest is that finding space to be ourselves in an unpolished way frees us. We do not need conflict in a violent or aggressive manner, but we do need spaces to be heard. To see all the facts and opinions clearly on the table and to be willing to continue on with someone else knowing that their view will always be different is a challenge, but one I think is worth taking. This type of challenge is vital to our existence in community, vital to our connecting, and vital to our sense of belonging, our wish to be seen and heard for who we are not who we are pretending to be.