Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Conformity Conflict

Before the time of written language, the writing press, and word processors there existed a tradition of story telling that has been lost as an art. Deep within these stories passed along one can find the treasure and essential essence of what a story is truly about. A great story, one worth telling and preserving over generations . is truly about a journey. No one desires to invest 120 minutes in a darkened room full of strangers to see a movie about a boy being born and having no troubles, having the perfect life, and then dieing. Although the medieval practice of throwing tomatoes at artists who displeased their audience has died with its time, resurrection may be possible with a cinematic feature like this. The “boos” would deafen anyone even close to this theater they would be so loud. Riots would ensue a critics would berate the mediocrity, at best of the film. Drama is what makes a journey worth watching, worth telling, and worth living. I’ve always said conflict can either reveal or build character. In every situation of life there is an opportunity to learn and grow, to mature and excel, to become enlightened and comprehend. These learning opportunities are choices on the opposite end of the spectrum far removed from the alternative. The alternative to progression of character is regression of freedom or better said oppression. “Freedom is not free at all, but comes at a great price.”

My comprehension of these truths is what gives me comfort here and now. This is comfort I seek in a place where I am uncomfortable, it is not my ultimate comforter, but a portion of true serenity. Conflict is an unavoidable reality, an inevitable foe that we will be faced with for as long as we breathe in this age. The question then is not how does one avoid conflict, but where does one decide conflict will take them, in a progressive, constructive direction or dark place. Being that conflict is an element that we cannot control, it is an external factor that exists regardless of our preferences. Being that we cannot control circumstances, the core of conflict, we can only understand it and seek to control ourselves and make progressive choices.

Maturity reveals that we do not live in a homogenous society. Conformity has no place in our culture. Diversity is celebrated and makes life beautiful. Individualism, diversity, and freedom have conceived a tri-breed child in conflict. The understanding of individualism is that each person has their own set or principles, preferences, morals, and faith in something. History still bleeds from the wounds caused by individuals oppressing with conformity. Although we may not agree with each other individually, respect is key to peace. Respecting others’ rights to be individuals is the mortar that bonds different stones in building the wall that is peace and unity. Jesus was all about peace and unity, in fact, His entire will and goal is to bring peace and unity to everything through Him. Jesus is not a conformist, nor is He the general leading an attack against individualism. Jesus’ entire message is about a new humanity where individualism is celebrated and embraced. This individualism must be respected in order to even begin pursuing a progressive life with conflict. Most of the time we are offended by individual’s choices or opinions and seek to win them to our side, seek to sell them on something we think they should believe or think. We seek to conform them to our own individualism, which makes it not individualism at all. Respecting and allowing people to have their own faith, opinion, political view, set of morals, etc. frees us from the tiring efforts of arguing towards conformity. This releases us from trying to change people in the midst on conflict, making its resolution all the more possible.

Emotions are important, but should be held captive to truth. I may feel like I was ignored and thus not respected, but the truth may be that someone just did not see me. Instead of allowing my mind to build upon something that may not be true I am challenged to verify truth before I allow emotions to run ahead. In the same way we need to look at situations with truth as primary leader with emotions tailing along. Seeking to uncover facts and truth within a conflict is essential. If one allows there mind to wander and emotions to lead the way their path is doomed to lead them nowhere. I always find myself in the middle of counseling someone through a conflict somehow. I guess people come to me expecting me to listen to them and offer them advice and opinions biased to their likings. Fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how rational they are) for them I always try to consider differing views, consider the other aspects and views of the situation that they will naturally not consider. This is done to reveal truth and not continue to crutch their mind with circumstantial evidence or emotions. Assumptions are made irrationally, but quickly morph into gospel truth and a bad foundation which they build their case upon. Emotions are reactions (prompted by stress, chemicals, past hurts, etc) based on dynamic situations. If these reactions are based something that changes, then the reactions themselves change. Something so active is not rational or safe to build anything on, especially a conflict. I have learned that emotions are not disposable because they are important and should be paid great attention to, but as long as they are based on truth. It would be like subject A being upset with subject B because they feel like that subject is actually subject C. The truth is B is B and not C, so it is ridiculous for A to be upset with B because indeed B is not C. Wrap your mind around that and consider if your feelings and emotions are realistic before trusting them.

Manipulative is not a flattering adjective for any subject. Unbecoming as this adjective may be it is something deep within each of us. Going back to conformity and individualism, it is easy for us to try to twist things our way, to get what we want out of people or situations. This is especially true in conflict. My fiancĂ©e and I are about as opposite as two people could be with how we handle conflict. She is rational and likes to get away and think before she speaks. I on the other hand like to get everything out on the table and talk it out right now. Although I know how she resolves conflict I still try to get her to talk, even after all this time. In a since I am trying to manipulate her into what I want to happen, I want to twist her arm in such a way she does what I want, talk right now. This, I have learned, is very destructive and can, and has, lead to hurting people. I should allow her to be this way, respect her ways of resolution, and accept her individual preference. Words and phrases like can’t, won’t, should, you will, are all destructive and screaming evidences of manipulation. “I want him to say…” This is something a friend recently said to me when I was walking him through a conflict. My question back was, “Are you okay if he doesn’t say…?” The reflection in the mirror needs to be faced with the question of, “If things don’t go my way, am I ok? Am I willing to allow them to disagree with me? Am I willing to let them not do what I want?” It is better to place your concerns and requests on the table, but be willing to leave them there. For example, if I am offended by someone coarsely joking with me I should not rush into their presence demanding them cease their style of joking or else. I should be able to calmly tell them that it offends me and request they not do it. I should understand within that request that they may not stop. I should understand that I cannot change them and shouldn’t even consider that as an option. Being manipulative in a conflict can easily turn it into a fiasco.

Even if we disagree can we respect someone enough to allow them to be individual and accept them? This is the ultimate question in conflict resolution. Will you consider people as much as you think you should be? Again, conformity is not an option if resolution is your goal.

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