Conflict is what makes a good story. It’s what I look for when I’m scanning back covers, what I hope for when I flip the pages. But in my very real, every day life, I hate it. I hate everything about it.
I wasn’t always so paranoid about disagreements. Confrontation didn’t bother me. Conflict was a natural thing, and should be dealt with just as naturally. But after a handful of sour experiences several years ago, I just don’t have the stomach for it.
And now, I find myself doing anything and everything to avoid that kind of situation. At first, my efforts weren’t big ones. More reactionary. I’d avoid certain people, certain situations. I’d skirt issues that were sure to frustrate me. I patently refused to talk about politics or other uncomfortable topics. And while all of these things are probably okay–and sometimes wise–when done in moderation, it wasn’t long before I noticed something. My efforts were–and sometimes still are–keeping me from participating in the things I love. Not only do I actively avoid frustration, I have a tendency to run from it.
Because I’m afraid.
Afraid of losing friends. Of losing my mind. Of the battle that ravages my gut when people are disappointed in me.
I run from conflict because something tells me that’s easier. Until, in my messy efforts to avoid one frustration, I run smack into another. Because, guess what, people are everywhere. Life happens. And perhaps the hardest thing for any of us to swallow: not everyone agrees with me. *shock*
But this whole running thing is ugliest when the inevitable downside rears it’s ugly head. When I am forced to deal with conflict, I find I’m out of practice. I’m rusty. And my efforts to resolve even the smallest of frustrations are awkward and leave me angsty when all is said and done.
But I’m onto it now. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally realized that avoiding conflict is impossible. So I’m navigating the strange choppy waters of my own self-esteem and reminding myself that even complete anonymity won’t keep some people from disliking me. Haters will find me. They’ll find you. But if we hide from the possibility of frustration, we might just keep out the people who actually like us. Who care about us. Who are close enough to actually hurt us from time to time.
I’m a work in progress, people, and I’m learning. The Bible says all sorts of things about dealing with conflict. Most notable is the passage in Matthew 18.
But if I’m honest, the thing that helps me most when I’m adrift on waves of emotion, is to remember that God’s love for us surpasses all these things. He’s knows our brokenness. And even when we’re hiding, when we’re frustrated and lost, when we’re terrified of dealing with the inevitable conflict around us, nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Cling to that when it’s hard. When you don’t have the strength to face another conflict, remember God’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
I’m learning that my own strength is never enough. There’s truth to the insecure little voice that spouts, “You can’t do this alone!” But there’s peace in the idea as well. Because I’ve never been asked to face the frustrations of this life alone. And I think I can do just about anything when I’m wrapped in God’s love.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:35, 37-39