On the Beauty of Conflict
Dear quarter lives,
Recently I found myself telling a friend that I don’t really understand how someone could enjoy watching other people fight. Even though my friend agreed, something inside of me wasn’t satisfied with that response. I felt that maybe my friend and I weren’t really paying attention, maybe we weren’t seeing something important that was so clearly there, that everyone else could see. A few days later, as the thought simmered and cooked itself in my mind, an answer arrived slowly, trickling through my resistance to accept something so “aggressive”. After all, I was all about peace, so how could I let myself see that there was beauty in conflict, in war, in fighting, let alone fighting as a sport. But I couldn’t not see it. It was there showing itself so beautifully and so transparently.
I had been the kind of person that tried to avoid conflict with others. I wasn’t so confrontational, and always afraid to cause upset or to cause myself upset through another’s upset. I was hiding behind peace hoping conflict wouldn’t find me. Ironically, I was already in it but just couldn’t see it. I was refusing to see the truth that I was bathing in conflict, some of it was for fun and some was more serious forcing me to grow and move forward through life. I love stories, and conflicts are at the heart of every one of them. It’s what makes a hero out of the human in every story. It is what captivates us because we understand that conflict is how we all grow, how we mature, how we get closer to those around us, how we get closer to ourselves. It is there at the centre of it all, like a sort of gravity that pulls our lives together, connects the dots between the different lines and threads. So you see, people go to see boxing matches not because they like to see others in pain or bleed but because it is a celebration of the “fight”, the fight that we are engaged in from the moment we begin to make our way through our mother’s birth canal. It is a celebration of the force that is “opposite”; it is a celebration that duality moves us forward, that the strength of our spine comes from having to resist and grow against gravity. Watching people fight reminds us that fighting is normal. It reminds us that it is sacred, that there is pleasure to be found in the pain.
Characters facing great obstacles and conflicts are an integral part of any captivating story. This is the stuff that makes for good TV. This is the stuff that we are willing to give our time and attention to. Why? Because it reminds us that conflict is beautiful, that what starts out one way will end somewhere else, that every conflict is a journey in and of itself, that it has an end just as it does a beginning. It reminds us that the fight is survivable, that we can do it, that we are all warriors in our own way. I understand now what I couldn’t see before because I was refusing to see the opportunities conflict was presenting in my own life. I had told myself the story that it was all harmful, that all conflict was painful, that it was all personal. Now, I can see a much bigger picture. I can appreciate the closeness I feel with someone who I am able to work through a fight with. Making space for conflict in our lives is not only important but it’s what makes it interesting. It’s what pushes us to evolve and change.
Watching a fight reminds us that there are always winners and losers, and that both are important for the growth of the other, and that being a part of the fight is what’s more important than winning or losing because one day you might be a winner and another a loser. It teaches us that there is meaning and joy to be made and had in the process, so we better not get attached to winning or losing but that it is best to learn to be both. Watching a fight reminds us that engaging in conflict is a creative act and that there is a big element of uncertainty that teaches us how to listen and be more sensitive. One of the perhaps more useful elements of watching or observing conflict is that even though it might look like chaos, but there are always rules; even wars have rules and when these rules are violated, people need to be held responsible. And different conflicts have different rules, and rules like your opponents are to be respected if you want to play the game and fight the fight. Of course, it could be argued that we see too much conflict in our world and perhaps we need to see more peace. But the thing is peace, resolution and unions all begin with conflict, they are the creative products of conflict. So perhaps the fact that there is so much conflict around us might be a sign that we are not following through till the end, that maybe we are leaving too many conflicts open-ended, unresolved and without an end which leads to long-term dysfunctional conflicts. And so like anything, conflict can be productive as well as destructive. You can choose how to manage your conflicts, you can choose to be brutal or compassionate. You can choose to prioritise immediate gains of winning the fight or long term gains of winning the relationship. You can take ownership of your mistakes or blame everyone else. Conflict is a great teacher, a beautiful one and a brutal one at times. But life is not just a walk in the park; it certainly can be sometimes but it is also the sand storms and hurricanes that turn and transform people’s lives. So today perhaps take a moment to recognise all the goodness conflict has brought to your life, recognise the muscles you have acquired through conflict, and the confidence with which you have learnt to protect your boundaries.
May you always have it in you to fight the good fight.
With love and always for peace,