Posts Tagged ‘how to live with conflict’

We humans love simple, single things — ice, rest, blue skies, laughter. And we love things that go together, peanut butter and jelly, shoes and socks. We intrinsically want life to be simple like sugar, to fit, like a shoe, to make sense, like a TV show, to exhibit a pattern like stripes, to contain rules like a policy manual.

That’s fine, I love simple too, cold water, coffee, chocolate, the explainable, how to pull a good shot of espresso, but life isn’t all simple. And it offers no policy manual. Life doesn’t always have a matching pair of socks, the right amount of spice, a central theme like one of Poe’s short stories, unity of effect. Life is a long story. Multiple interpretations. Much of it isn’t themed. Self-help books and biographies can be tasty, like frothed milk in coffee, but it’s interesting how quickly they go out of vogue.

Life bounces around like a dune buggy on a rocky incline. Life soars over the top of the dune! Life comes down too hard and pops a tire. Life lived is rough, sometimes uncomfortable, like pants we’ve grow out of, or tumbley like a cement mixer. Then it’s beautiful like a flower growing from a crack in the concrete. Sometimes it’s simple like a hug, sometimes scary like a hurricane.

So how does one process a nonlinear, constantly shifting whirly, swirly?

I have a few thoughts on this.

Live the now. Don’t look back too hard using psychological microscope, or ahead to squinty using what you have, a small aperture, low power mental telescope. Don’t regret stuff much, mistakes, jobs, relationships. You learned something. In a given day you can fall into the pit and sit on a cloud. Bounce on. Kids do that. They are crying one minute and laughing in the next. Cry-laugh.

Try not to define yourself by accomplishments or comparisons of accomplishments. One person‘s accomplishments don’t take away from your own. In some seasons we are super productive and in others we are not. Our value doesn’t change when we don’t do what we used to.

Don’t give much advice. Don’t expect kudos if you do. That’s not why we help, is it? The best thing you can tell people is that you believe in them. Tell them they are strong. Ask questions about what they think. Listen. Be open, like a bucket with no lid. Help them come up with their own answers. Help them turn on their own faucet.

And accept that you won’t always be able to explain yourself to others or even to yourself. What others haven’t lived, they won’t understand. What you haven’t lived before but do now may not make sense to you until later. And try as you might, some things you won’t figure out. The more you try the more you’ll wonder.

Christians may particularly struggle with this issue. We easily fall into a kind of simplistic, preachy, advicey, fix-it, rule-tyranized religion, always trying to live up to some morality or virtue or rule — or get someone else to. The Bible isn’t a policy manual. It’s a messy story. Truth is best as a parable. Jesus showed us that. Jesus was intentionally obscure. He intentionally said complex stuff, told stories nobody understood. At times he hid the truth. Why? Wisdom is often nuanced, paradoxical. Wisdom isn’t always an answer. Sometimes it’s a question. Sometimes we must live, move, and have our being inside of questions.

Expect disagreement, even inside of yourself. I had an argument with myself recently. I lost — and won. We don’t have to always agree with ourselves. We think we will and then we think we won’t and then we think we do and then we think we don’t. I am one person tired, another rested, one way sick, another well. We are each a bundle, an assortment compounded, multiviewed, complicated.

Make friends with tensions. Even with those we love the most we often have conflict. John Gottman, a family psychologist, says that much spousal conflict is never resolved, just lived with and negotiated and eventually laughed at — a lot. There are always two sides and usually both sides have some validity. And sides remain after all the talk.

Look at how inconsistent the Bible people were. Moses flipped and flopped, bold, scared, retreating, advancing, favored, then left out. David was a hot mess. He lied and murdered and adulterated and wrote famous, pious-prayer psalms. Peter was a massive contradiction, at one point so loyal to Christ, at another point denying him. Paul was racked with insecurity and self doubt. Read Romans 7. He agonized over doing the very things he didn’t want to do. Perhaps the best approach is to think of ourselves as forgiven and loved despite our contradictions, inconsistencies and complications.

You are loved. I love you. God loves you. That’s one simple thing you can hold onto.