I have never handled conflict well. I have been known to handle conflict with tears, self-defense, lashing out, or shutdown mode. My favourite technique, though, has been avoidance. I would rather not talk to you than fight with you.
I cannot identify for certain when this preference was established or what caused it. Perhaps it stems from having a number of people in my life who were physically violent when they were angry; who wants to confront these people about anything, ever?! I can only say that I noticed the pattern several years ago, during yet another family blowout. Social media accounts were disconnected, communication severed, and some strange version of peace prevailed. The problem is that nothing was actually resolved.
On a professional level, it has always been fairly easy to avoid conflict. My line of work is great for staying at a desk all day, popping in earphones if required for sanity, and sticking to the task at hand. Still, I requested training in conflict resolution, as I knew this to be an advantageous skill on all levels of life.
I have yet to receive any training in this area. What I have received are numerous opportunities to practice. Most often, I have stuck to what I know: avoidance and disassociation; however, my heartfelt goal to establish and preserve relationships demands more of me.
I have been working my way through an independent study of Danny Silk's book, "Keep Your Love On". I started this weeks chapter last night, and was thrilled to discover it's about conflict! Finally: some sound, Scriptural teaching on this subject!
The timing could not be more profound. We are discussing a possible visit to the East coast for the first time in 5 years, and I am riddled with anxiety over this. An estranged community member with whom I was once close has seemingly extended an olive leaf. Professionally, I have reached a point where either the atmosphere will change, or the environment will change. With the physical effects on my health recently, I know it is time for me to make changes.
In speaking with a friend this morning, I was surprised to hear the following revelation come out of my own mouth: You can't pass the test if you never write the test. I won't just wake up one day feeling confident that I can handle conflict now: I first have to walk through a successful conflict resolution. So it is, that as much as I dread the thought of it, I am determined to finally tackle a situation head on. Maybe even two or three ... but let's not get hasty in committing to more than one just yet. 😁
And now it makes sense that the word impressed upon me so heavily for this year was "DEFINED". It is so easy to let circumstances, history, or other people's opinions define us! I refuse to believe that every relationship in my life is temporary, and will fall apart at the first sign of disagreement. I refuse to believe that I will never be more than my biggest mistakes: I already am more than these. I refuse to accept one person's negative opinion of me as fact ... especially if their opinion of everyone else is negative, too.
Effective immediately, I'm making the change. I will be defined by the lessons learned, rather than the mistakes made. I will be defined by God's vision of me, rather than people -- after all, He made me and knows me more intimately than they. I will not be defined by any single moment - my best or my worst - but by each step I take toward being the best version of me.
Effective immediately, I will practice what I have preached to my children for several years: Know who - and Whose - you are, and walk in it. You'll hear me coming; I'll be singing along with the Gaither Vocal Band:
On the authority of the Holy Book, I rise up and take my stand;
I'm a blood-bought child of the risen King Who is the great I-AM.
I'm an heir to all that Heaven holds, and no principality
Can ever take away my royal crown, given on His authority.
I will walk the hard roads. I will pursue deeper relationships. I will achieve a healthier state of mind. I will live this life!