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The relationship between conflict and friendship can be a difficult one to tackle. As I’m sure many of you have heard, friends can “agree to disagree.” This is not helpful.
The implication, and it’s an easy one to believe, is that true connection with those we love and care for requires agreement. The phrase, “agree to disagree,” suggests that, even when conflict is irresolvable, we can still agree on some higher lever and therefore be friends. Wrong.
“Let’s agree to disagree.”
These guys are just burying things that
need to be expressed (but in a helpful way).
Let’s just be straight here: conflict is uncomfortable. Furthermore, it strains relationships and oftentimes plants a seed that can grow into atrocious violence (e.g. The Holocaust, ethnic cleansing in Sudan, the US Civil War, and other crimes not sanctioned by governments). When I disagree with my wife, for example, the tension in the room is almost tangible (ask her if you don’t believe me)!
No, neither ignoring or glossing over the tension is ever a good idea. It won’t go away, and it usually blows up in your face later. It is better to ensure that, when conflict arrises, I can respond well. Some would call this, “keeping my side of the street clean.” If I am centered, then someone can lean on me without compromising my position. If someone is upset with me, I can take it, even give way to them – apologize, concede, bow out, etc….
Now I’m not saying that strained or broken relationships simply shouldn’t hurt. On the contrary, acknlowledging the pain, I can recieve it as such without allowing it to become a threat.
|Conflict will continue to escalate if
I allow myself to feel threatened.
When I know that everything I need comes from God, then I can be selective about what I allow in. When a friend expresses gratitude, I am grateful and accept that with grace, but I’m also ok without it! When a friend criticizes or flings hateful words at me, I can allow those words to pass right through me without letting go of a genuine concern for her or him.
In a nutshell: Because I get what I need from God, I’m ok. If I’m ok, then I can then be available to others no matter their condition. Anger, happiness, despair, contempt, etc. None of it enters me unless I allow it. And I need none of it.
A friend of mine, John, recently found himself in a difficult situation where, out of love for his friend, Jill, he felt compelled to challenge her about what he thought was a poor decision. John acted out of love, but Jill felt judged. In my opinion, John still did the right and loving thing, although that friendship is most likely over now.
|Not actually John and Jill. Not actually anybody really…|
As is understandable, John is upset. Now in one sense this could be very good; losing a friend is a kind of death. In another sense, however, this would be very bad because it’s never right or safe to allow others’ feelings to influence us without our approval.
What I mean is this: John is having difficultly with the fact that Jill doesn’t like him anymore. Why might this be? I think John unknowingly gave Jill too much authority over his perceived worth (the “am I good or bad, and if so how much?” factor). Faith can play a significant role in a situation like this.
Before I give my opinion, I’m interested in yours. How do you think John’s faith in God might help him in his situation?
(The identities of the above characters have been kept confidential by random assignment of name and/or change of gender. Any correspondence to actual persons is purely coincidental.)