Conflict pt. 1
My friend Joan had this up on her page at some point. She is a “Conflict Navigator” after all. This cracked me up for some reason. I was thinking I could clean up my language by using this saying instead of a few choice others, like, fuck off!
It stuck with me mainly because my ladies study group has been in the book of James, which has pointed advice for us when we are dealing with conflict. Chapter 4 starts, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source, your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:1-3. NASB I quoted the NASB since it uses the word “conflict.” The NIV uses “fights.”
Webster says that conflict is defined as having “incompatible ideas, a lack of harmony or deep differences.” We find it in nations, religious groups, politics, businesses, families and basically every relationship on the planet. But I don’t think in any way was James admonishing us to “get rid of” conflict.
Webster’s medical definition of conflict is: “resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands.” Sounds like conscience as much as conflict. Conscience is our awareness of our own conduct, intentions, and character, whether good or bad.
So I think James, was speaking to conscience. Basically saying, think about it would you? Instead of quarreling, take a look inside and see what is going on with you before pointing fingers at everyone else.
I remember when my Dad gave one of his dinner time talks, explaining the meanings of the political parties. At the close of it, we all piped up with the child-like question, “why don’t they just do what is best for everyone?” Think about it, we may lament it, but it is a reality that there is no one right path or way that benefits everyone. It is an impossibility unless every single person and situation is identical!
To have true community and loving families, we must learn to accept differences. Sure, we can strive for a general standard of good intent verses evil intent in our tribes, but we cannot possibly agree all the time. Why do we even think we want that anyway? In order to merit the unique quality of each individual, each nation, each religion, each social construct, we need respect, not agreement. We need unity, not uniformity.
I will own it—I have had to apologize to many people in my day, for disagreeing vehemently over some thing or another and not being mindful of the effect of my tone or stance. But sometimes I just hadn’t looked inside and asked myself if I had “envy” or “wrong motives” or “lust” driving my end of a conflict.
Socrates is said to have uttered the words, “an unexamined life is not worth living,” when he was on trial for his life. I think James is advocating the same personal examination. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the unexamined life has no value, but it sure makes it better when trying to keep relationships functioning in a positive vein.
In Psalm 131, David said, “But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” He did the work. Shaun Hick, in The Army of Five Men, put it this way, “You need to spend time crawling alone through shadows to truly appreciate what it is to stand in the sun.” He crawled. I like that as a way to live, being willing to have ideas and opinions but also willing to allow my fellow man to have his own. That sounds like a good life, “standing in the sun.”