Let’s be clear, I’m not in favor of conflict, especially any conflict involving violence. Yet it seems like much of my life I’ve been exerting effort to either avoid or resolve conflicts, most of them involving other people. And, as uncomfortable as I am with conflict, I do see how it serves humanity.
In grade school I was tall for my age. I was always the one in the back of the photos of our class as we lined up by size. When you’re the big kid, you either go around terrorizing the rest of your class or you are the target of smaller bullies trying to raise their stature by picking a fight with you. I was not a terror and I did my best to avoid the bullies. In middle school as the size of other kids caught up to me, I was better able to blend into the background. I got into fights when I had to, but I did my best to avoid them.
Whenever a conflict arose in the outer world, I learned that a tense feeling would come up in my inner world. As I grew older, the feeling arose less in situations involving potential physical fighting and more in those adult situations where words and situations are the weapons. When I’m in tune with my body, I can sense that inner feeling and realize that things out there in the physical world are not in alignment. I’ve learned not to like it.
As one grows older and more mature, life’s conflicts are much more subtle. Rarely do I argue or fight with someone. Now clashes come disguised as differences of opinion in discussions, different takes with employees on the type of service I should be receiving as a customer, different beliefs on who is “wrong” in merging traffic, tactless language in e-mails and the like. Generally such encounters remain simply as an internal boiling, rarely bubbling over into physical behavior save the occasional hand gesture or muttering underneath the breath.
As a parent I worked to resolve the conflicts of my children. As a longtime manager I worked to resolve the conflicts of my staff. As a minister and counselor I work to resolve the inner conflicts of my clients. As a human being I work to resolve my own internal conflicts. As a witness to the human drama on the planet I work to resolve even larger differences.
So how are these conflicts gifts?
As much as we might never want to bump into one another and experience the internal feelings of angst, life might get pretty boring if every thing always lined up everybody’s way. Water flowing through a straight canal may be very efficient, but it’s not as interesting as the bends and turns of a river. Struggles are the bends in the river of human experience, where we meet resistance, seek a new path and forge on in a new direction.
Conflicts are often the leading edge where growth is occurring. Visualize how a plant twists and turns in its growth pattern as it seeks to thrive. Its roots encounter rocks and learns to grow around them, its stems and leaves learn to gracefully dance around obstacles on their path to water and sunlight. Our struggles similarly offer us the opportunity to further our growth as we bob and weave on our path to self-actualization and self transcendence.
As the Teachings of Abraham say, contrast (that is, experiencing and then knowing what we don’t want so we can learn what we do want) is an important part of our human experience as it allows us to determine what we prefer in life. Most folks don’t want the pain of struggle and conflict. Yet the experience of it gives us the contrast so we can choose a life free of such clashes.
If each of us were to look back upon the struggles of our lives from a place of time and distance, I suspect most of us would realize that all of the pains experienced during our lives set the stage for much of our growth. We wouldn’t be who we are and where we are today without the battles of yesterday.
Similarly, humanity collectively has grown through the pain, sorrow and struggle caused by war, violence and people forgetting their relationship to other people. Yet we are growing via these conflicts. Through the contrast between peace and war, we are learning that war and violence no longer serves us.
Although we might believe that humanity could have learned these lessons without the pain and sorrow, the reality is we did not. Our history shows we moved through and continue to move through much of humanity’s inhumanity to humanity. That is our evolutionary past. The question becomes — what is our evolutionary future?
As long as we stay focused on the past, the pain, the conflicts; then we will continue to experience more strife. If we learn from the past but turn our attention and focus to a positive future, then we can create a better world. It’s time to let go of the pain of the past, it’s time to see the gifts in our conflicts (personal or global), its time to turn to our evolutionary calling.
Each of us has a choice — in our personal lives and in our public lives — in how we view conflict. It’s time to release that tenseness in our gut, to let go of our conflicts both past and present, see their gifts, and use them as a springboard to make a higher choice. It’s time to answer our call to evolve.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!