I’ve been fascinated by the limited-series television show called, Waco, starring Michael Shannon as the FBI negotiator and Taylor Kitsch as David Koresh, the cult leader. The show is based upon two books: one by the FBI negotiator Gary, and another by one of the few survivors. Between the two accounts, you get a clear picture of what really happened. You may think you know what transpired, but you will probably be shocked at the truth. I know I was taken aback.
I’m not going into the details of the incident but rather using it to illustrate one simple point: conflict takes two parties. Early on, if the ATF agents would have handled the search warrants more appropriately, the entire conflict could have been avoided. However, when they went in guns a blazing—and I mean, they game after them—David’s ego wouldn’t allow him to stop the conflict peacefully. Nope, he had to retaliate. EVERYHING escalated, and people died on both sides.
Throughout the fifty-one-day ordeal, solutions were presented, and resolution was in striking distance. Yet, each side dug their heels in, and in the end, everyone lost. Thankfully, our conflicts typically won’t result in someone’s death, but they can be to the death if we let them. Knock-down, drag-out fights don’t happen unless two people participate.
As a strong-willed person, I’m not afraid to enter into conflict if I feel it is warranted. The challenge is keeping it healthy and productive. Discussions can quickly turn into arguments that lead to fighting if we aren’t careful.
I like to picture unproductive conflict as the Tasmanian Devil…a whirl of chaos that will suck you in if you let it. Once you are swept in, your head spins and things go bad quickly. This is where self-control comes in, and we must check out egos at the door by choosing love over being right. This sounds so easy until you are in the thick of it, and your emotions have taken over.
Some people love conflict because being right is everything to them. They feed off of it. Other people are so insecure that they take the offense and attack to prevent people from really seeing them. Just because I can handle conflict doesn’t mean I like it; in fact, I hate it. Conflict is part of life, though, and it is required to come to resolutions. Anytime we have two or more people, we have varying opinions and ways of doing things, which is perfect soil for conflict to grow.
Jesus is a great example to us and gives us better ways to handle conflict. The Pharisees were constantly trying to entrap Him in conflict, but He wouldn’t partake. He often responded to their questions with questions, and sometimes, He just walked away. In debates, He listened more than He talked and sought to understand where the other person was coming from. He also extended grace and love, which we could all do a bit better these days.
Social media is a mine field of conflicting opinions where everyone thinks they are right and everyone else is wrong. How tempting to blast someone when they have offended you. We need to grow thicker skin folks, and we need to learn to step away. Don’t fall for the trap. Let them be and let it go.
As a fan of the show, Blue Bloods, I love Frank Reagan’s wisdom and nuggets he imparts to co-workers and family. One such line is “To what end?” He often asks this when someone is going down the wrong path or not letting go of something. He doesn’t tell them they are wrong, but he seeks to discover their motive. It usually causes the person to pause (remember that word from last week?) and think about it for a moment.
Pausing is the key once again. If we can take a deep breath, swallow, and think about what we hope to gain from our interaction with someone, we may decide to just step away. Sometimes, we will need to engage because a line has been crossed, but even then, we can speak directly yet kindly. We can share our feelings without stepping on theirs. Social media is instant, and it has trained us to jump on things without thinking first. We chime in without giving a second thought to the ramifications of our words. Words hurt, and once they are out, they cannot be taken back. At that point, you can only ask for forgiveness.
If you find yourself in heated debates, do some soul searching. Are you pushing buttons in hopes of getting the thrill of battle? Are you frustrated and upset about something else but take it out on others, leading to fights and hurt feelings? Or are you attempting to improve relationships with deeper understanding that may require discussing some tough subjects? Just remember: conflict takes two!
In my book, Leveraging Your Communication Style, you will discover your unique communication style and then learn how you can adapt it to others to have more meaningful conversations that will hopefully avoid conflict all together.
You share SO much wisdom and give practical advice. How about a radio talk show? Right down your alley!! Good thoughts on conflict – Jesus as our example – what attitudes to have when entering it – and what to personally gain from it. Way to go!!!