Conflict. It’s inevitable in life, but it doesn’t have to be ugly.
First, a little back story…
A few days ago my daughter received a troubling text message from a good friend of hers. While I will spare you the details, by the time it was all said and done, I had a moment where I really wanted to give her friend’s mother a piece of my mind. I was angry. I was very angry.
However, I knew that reacting in anger would not be productive for anyone involved. I’ve been around the block enough times to know that reacting negatively to a negative circumstance only breeds trouble, and friend, I want to stay as far away from trouble as I possibly can.
So if reacting in anger isn’t the way to deal with anger, then what is?
Responding in love.
Now waaaaaiiiiitttt…. before you click away from this post with a picture of me around a campfire singing Kumbaya in your head, hear me out.
I wasn’t always a subscriber to this philosophy. I used to have some pretty major anger issues. But I kept finding myself always making things worse with my outbursts, no matter how justified I may have felt in them. I let my anger make me look mean, vindictive and unstable. As I began seeking ways to change, I quite literally met Love in a head on collision that had a life-altering effect on me. The more I learned to express myself through the lens of love, the more I began see it change so much more than my anger ever did. Now, I want to pass these principles on in hopes that they will help you in the same way that they are helping me.
1. Love is patient and kind.
When we get angry, patience is usually the first thing to leave the room, taking kindness with it. Tempers flare, people stop listening and then things get ugly. But I am finding that when I take a moment to find my patience with the other person, kindness remains present and communication happens. When communication happens, things usually get resolved and everyone is spared the ugly.
2. Love does not envy or boast.
What does being envious or boasting have to do with anger? During one of my outbursts, I had a moment of clarity. I saw myself all red-faced and screaming and realized that what I was doing was actually boasting about how right I was. What I am learning is that that is actually the very anti-thesis of the purpose of anger. It affected no change and I looked like a crazy person.
3. It is not arrogant or rude.
Uh, I feel like this needs no explanation… When we react in anger, arrogance and rudeness are very present bed fellows, are they not?
4. It is not irritable or resentful.
Anger is a byproduct of irritability and can breed resentfulness if mishandled.
5. It seeks the truth.
When we are reacting in anger, no matter how justified we feel our anger may be, we are actually just seeking to have our own way. That is not seeking truth, y’all. If we can respond to conflict with love, it will empower us to seek the truth behind the other person’s motives. For example, maybe they are feeling hurt or ignored or slighted and are trying to express that, only they don’t know how. Love will enable us to really hear them and help lead everyone to a peaceful resolution.
6. Love bears and believes all things.
Assuming anything about the person with whom we are in conflict is is the most destructive thing we can do. I have found that most conflicts are a result of two people who just need to be heard. When we let love guide us during conflict, we can have a greater understanding of that and then proceed in a constructive form of communication.
7. Love hopes and endures all things.
In my opinion, hope is the second most powerful force on the earth; second only to love. When we have hope in a positive outcome, we can endure any difficult conversation. Even if things get heated, hope will keeps us in the game long enough to work things out.
Now y’all, please don’t assume that I am naive enough to think that every conflict will have a happy ending. I know they won’t. In fact, in the case of my daughter that I mentioned above, nothing was ever really resolved. But I did my very best to apply these principles to that particular conflict and now I don’t have to live with the regret of losing my temper.
I know that some of you may be asking, “Well what if they don’t respond in love? What should I do then?” Well, my friend, what they do has no bearing on what we do. If they are being difficult, it is okay to let them know that you won’t participate in a conversation that is unhealthy or unproductive. If the conversation needs to be rescheduled to a time when a more healthy approach can be taken, request to do so. At any rate, you are only responsible for you. And you have what it takes to respond in love.
I know that responding instead of reacting isn’t easy. It takes discipline to master a skill like this. I am by no means an expert, but hey, we can figure it out together!