On conflict with others

When we are trying to live a spiritual life, it can come as quite a shock to us when we experience conflict – especially if we have been working hard at improving our relationships and communication with others.

Our efforts in self-improvement may have bettered our relationships and it is possible that we have not had any serious conflict for several years. But then we do encounter it again. And it catches us by surprise because we weren’t expecting it.

It takes the wind out of our sails, and puts us on uncertain ground. How we respond will depend on either our own mood, or how this person pushes our long forgotten buttons. If the conflict is with a family member, we may revert to being bratty teenagers, or maybe we shy away and become reclusive as we find ourselves hiding from the problem.

In some ways, this makes us realise we have lost control of ourselves, and that obviously frightens us. Our reaction makes us question who we are, and what we stand for. It makes us question how much we have changed.

The truth is we will never be completely rid of conflict, it’s quite impossible unless we were to go and live in a metaphorical cave. Even if we were able to completely navigate our own responses to people (which is also highly unlikely), we will never be able to manage what other people are feeling or experiencing, and so we will inevitably run into someone who is having a particularly bad day and we may not respond in the way we would like to.

So what do we make of this spiritually? What is this situation trying to teach us?

I have some ideas on this, but I still feel quite far away from fully understanding what it means, these are my thoughts:

Conflict:

  1. Shows us our blind-spots, the troublesome and stubborn sides of ourselves we may like to ignore.
  2. Makes us humble and reflective. It helps us be compassionate with others who may be struggling with others on a regular basis.
  3. Reminds us to reconnect with Spirit to centre ourselves.
  4. Encourages more growth, because in an even-tempered world there is not a lot of change or growth.

So hopefully the next time I encounter conflict with someone, I will remember this is an opportunity for me to grow – even by just a fraction. Practicing new ways of being is a skill that needs to be learnt, just like any other. We do not begin a new skill and instantly reach perfection just because we understand how it is done (take any example you like – learning a new sport or instrument, learning to cook or drive a car). Everything takes practice, and lots of it. So as you inch forwards learning how to be kind to others, you are also learning how to be kind to yourself. Be gentle and acknowledge this is hard for all of us.

Stormy weather

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