Conflict is often seen as a dirty or shameful word in the English language.
In the past, I’ve had a lot of baggage attached to the word ‘conflict,’ and I notice this with others.
When we talk about our most significant relationships, we tend to either overemphasize or overlook conflict.
Conflict is seen as either an out-and-out fight, or a seething argument just waiting for a chance to explode.
But conflict is really an inherent force. A tension. An opposition built into the fabric of the universe.
Science recognizes this dynamic with Newton’s third law of motion. It says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Chinese philosophy contains this truth in the principle of yin and yang. The opposing forces of darkness and light are both inseparable and complementary.
Popular culture also recognizes this principle with the ubiquitous Murphy’s Law, which suggests that everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Conflict embodies the essence of all of these things.
Conflict is the opposing reaction. The darkness that obscures the light. The ‘something’ that is just sprung-loaded to go wrong.
Yet, conflict is necessary and important for transformation.
If everything we encounter is easy, we never challenge ourselves, and our ability to learn and grow diminishes.
Conflict is really a force that, when properly appreciated and channeled, allows for a greater depth and breadth of peace and well-being.
This means that conflict resolution is really just the process of recognizing how conflict shows up in our lives.
Conflict resolution is appreciating how conflict acts. How it grows. And learning how to channel it in healthy ways.
In a strange way, I had been ‘doing’ conflict resolution for years.
In my ten years as an esthetician, I had the privilege of sitting with people, and listening to their stories. Sometimes I offered advice. But mostly I just shared in their everyday struggles and challenges.
All of this happened while I was tending to their hands, their feet, and their skin. The parts of themselves that they were frequently vulnerable about and reluctant to expose.
It was the process of transformation that I fell in love with. Taking the parts of people that had been hidden, neglected, and shamed.
And then bringing those parts into the light. Making sure they were seen. Affirmed as important. Tended to. Parts of themselves that came to be loved and appreciated all over again.
This process of transformation mirrors the process of conflict resolution.
Resolving conflict is about taking the hidden things we don’t want to look too closely at, and bravely facing them so they can be seen, tended to, and transformed.
The process of conflict resolution asks that every day I step forward and face both the good and the bad. Both in myself and in my most significant relationships.
Every day it asks me to stand in self-awareness.
Every day it requires me to be brave and to risk being wrong.
When conflict is constructively managed, it clears and expands for connection.
Even though I now have a master’s degree in conflict studies, I still live in the tension of being both an ‘expert’ and a ‘seeker.’ I too am a fellow companion on this journey called life.
And in the end, that’s the lesson conflict resolution ultimately teaches us: that we are all in this together.