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The Power of Conflict


Conflict is so powerful that most of the time we’ll do anything to avoid it.


We avoid it because we assume we know how someone else will feel about, or respond to, what we have to say to them. Whenever I’ve experienced very negative conflict, the kind that ends up being really damaging to a relationship, so often it happened because I’d already set their position in my own mind. I began the conflict dead set against letting them out of whatever position I imagined they’d have.


I was doing the opposite of ‘seeking to understand.’ In those instances, I was seeking to convict or seeking to defend myself from conviction. It’s hard to seek to understand when we’re in a defensive posture. It’s also hard to seek to understand when we’re trying to convict someone of the wrong they’ve done (real or imagined) without wanting to truly listen to their own perspective.


It’s funny because that ties back to being unoffendable. Remember my story about being late for a meeting and being angry at everyone else on the road? Being offended if someone cuts you off, for example, implies that you assume they did it on purpose. Then you pull up beside them and roll your window down and you start yelling at each other. All of that conflict began because of your choice to be offended by someone you don’t know, for an action you don’t even know that they did on purpose. You’re seeking to convict and not understand.


True, powerful, positive conflict seeks to understand first, then to be understood.

Most of these things start with our thoughts and decisions. What was our decision for the day? How did we wake up? Did we start our day with negative thoughts and decisions?


Maybe we’re carrying the emotions tied to a previous negative conflict and bringing them to any future conflicts we have that day. I think we’ve all done that; I know I have. I’ve been in a bad mindset due to an unresolved conflict, and unprepared to have a conversation that ended up turning into a conflict simply because I let that previous conflict poison this conversation. Then it goes on to poison the next conversation, and the next, triggering the law of compounding results in my own life and relationships. In an upcoming blog, we’re going to talk more about the law of compounding.


Negative conflict is powerful, and it drives fear. My mind just went to the Karate Kid, and Mr. Miagi. His style of teaching was one of competence (wipe on wipe off). His style of conflict was one that came from being in a place of peace, versus the antagonist in that movie who was not a person of peace, he was a person of anger and hurt. When conflict comes from anger and hurt, it does nothing but destroy. Conflict that comes from a place of peace, of holding your own boundaries, is healthy and productive conflict.

 

True, powerful, positive conflict seeks to understand first, then to be understood.

 

If we’re going to live a healthy life, conflict will be part of it because conflict is where we set boundaries and maintain them. I wasn’t on the debate team but I know people who were, and they are so good at arguing both sides of a point. I’ve been told to be a great debater you have to be a good listener. That would probably hold true with being a person who practices healthy conflict, and it goes back to first seeking to understand, then to be understood.


Think about the difference between trying to convict someone, versus influencing them or helping them see something in a different way. That goes back to Rule 5, Vigorous Debate, which is a healthy form of conflict.


Healthy conflict is about holding your own boundaries, unhealthy conflict is advancing on assumptions, rather than actual opinions or beliefs of the other person. Holding a conviction is a healthy boundary, projecting an assumption onto someone else is an unhealthy boundary.


The people on the corner screaming at folks: ‘You’re going to hell!’ are pushing their own convictions and/or assumptions onto others and creating unhealthy conflict. Being a person of peace is the way to attract people to Christ; instead of telling them they’re going to hell without Him, show them that they can go to heaven with Him. I know people who have been convicted by that (notice I said they were convicted, not that I had to convict them) and have turned their life around.


Conflict is a part of our everyday lives. The question is: will you practice healthy or unhealthy conflict?

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