Conflict: The Pathway to Growth
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | May 2018
Growing with Resistance
Our plans are disrupted. Circumstances interfere with our intentions. Life will always intrude, demanding adjustments and reconciliations.
We waddle through our days following plans and reaching for goals. But just as we seem to be making headway, the unplanned disaster strikes, swooping down unannounced, and disrupting our progress. Those who skillfully navigate conflict succeed; those who don’t wither in frustration. Depending on our approach, we grow or shrink with these inevitable setbacks. We shouldn’t seek conflict; but should expect that the naturally occurring conflicts will arise, demanding additional resources and patience. During discomforting conflict, we must keep focused on the goal, determining a new path to overcome the nasty unplanned interference. Our approach molds the nature of the experience—for growth or deterioration.
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Life doesn’t conform to our wishes; no matter how noble those wishes. Our partner, children, friends, and coworkers shouldn’t be treated as pawns in our private game, forced to conform or be damned. They have their own plans, hopes and desires that need attention for their sense of purpose and well-being. We live amid others, with their own individual plans, our lives constantly bump and collide with the lives of others. Ignoring all plans except for our own, narrows our view and creates countless disappointments. Self-focused, excluding the impact of others on experience, ignores the ever-present complexity of this living. To master life, achieving our intentions, we must successfully work through the conflicts of different ideas, believes, and goals. If we refuse to see beyond our own hopes, we limit essential relationships. If we open our minds to accept our role in society as a part and not the whole, we broaden our views to creatively work through interpersonal conflicts. From this heightened perspective, we learn the art of compromise.
Conflict—by its very nature—creates discomfort. We feel discomfort when plans, wants, or believes are challenged. The purpose of discomfort is to direct attention to the conflict. The goal isn’t to eliminate the conflict through manipulation or attack but to reconcile with the new demands. We adjust, adapting to a world that is not programmed to bow to our individual needs. We live in a vast universe that supports societies of people and countless living organisms. Frankly, we are not intelligent enough to run the universe, considering the complexity and the impact of each choice, if everything flowed to our wishes, I suspect the universe would cease to exist in short order. The force of others and nature keep us in check.
Many avoid conflict. The discomfort provokes overwhelming anxieties. Instead of risking the intrusion of unplanned challenges, they conform. But avoiding discomfort limits experience, discounting personal fulfillment of improvement to the humble following of what society or a partner determines is best. Sometimes conformity is good; other times limiting—or even destructive. A thoughtful approach to the challenges of balancing the self with others invites a deeper examination of personal beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors, expanding our understanding of alternate views. This requires openness to change, learning to soothe the disquieting anxieties as we muddle our way through paths that are slightly grown over and full of unplanned surprises.
"We adjust, adapting to a world that is not programmed to bow to our individual needs."
A new skill of human interaction is required. When the path is blocked by the plans of another, instead of listening to contend, we must listen to understand, trying to comprehend their stance, purpose and goal. Our reactions to these natural conflicts determine success or failure. We must remind ourselves we are only an infinitesimal part of a boundless cosmic environment. How we fit in, how we maneuver around and through the conflicts is the experience of living. The pathway to growth always is through successful management of conflicts.
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