I wanted to call this post “conflict resolution”… but then I thought that by putting the emphasis on “resolution” that it might imply I know how to do that.
So then I thought about calling it “dealing with conflict”… but then it dawned on me that sometimes I don’t deal with it. I just run from it.
The thought then crossed my mind to title this post “handling conflict”… but not truly knowing whether or not I was “handling” it in a good or a bad way, I decided against that one too. Instead, I’m settling on “The Inevitable: Conflict”
Me and a few friends were recently wrapped up in some conflict with another long-time friend (more long-term with them than me). This recent ordeal, in conjunction with past conflicts, has finally inspired such emotions in me that I must write a blog post.
I try real hard to give people the benefit of the doubt (at least until they show me that “the benefit of the doubt” may be too much). After all, no one really knows what someone else is dealing with in life. But once I see repeated behavior and continued foolish decisions I start to wonder if I’m obligated, as a friend longing for truly intimate relationships, to take the risk of calling someone out on their behavior. While difficult to broach the subject, I feel that if I am being wronged by someone I owe it to myself (and that person) to graciously let them know that their behavior is not welcome / not healthy / not acceptable.
You see, it’s the principle of the matter. That said, I’m not sure if it actually comes across as “gracious”… but I try.
Here is the rub. This is a struggle for me. You see, I’ve struggled with being a full-on people pleaser. I don’t like upsetting people. Period. (As a kid I used to cry when I got a stern talking to. Yes. You can see why this “I’m going to tell you what I think and I don’t care what you think of me” approach is difficult for me.) Needless to say, I struggle with the idea that I’m actually going to have to confront someone. Yet, I still feel like I owe it to our relationship, to me, to them, to a fellow Christian… to have this difficult conversation.
Or I could just fall back on what I normally do: avoid conflict like The Plague. I could just hold out hope that the person will grow up? Right? They they will search their inner-most soul and make a change for the better? And then sit back and wonder if I really do need to say something. Or is it me? Do I change my behavior in hopes that they will change theirs? (enter the whole new topic of MANIPULATION… no thank you!)
You can guess my answer. I usually chicken out. I usually wait for the situation to get so bad that one of us “blows up”. And unfortunately in the heat of the moment I don’t get to say what I really wanted to say nor do I really listen to what the other person is saying. It’s all defensive… both sides of the matter.
So what happened in THIS instance? Well, I did what I don’t usually do. (This was ever so difficult for me. Please don’t tell me you’re proud of me. That just enables me, as a recovering people-pleaser.) I prayed on it and decided to ask for a chance to “talk it out”. She refused and she ran away, saying “It’s me. Not you.” She ran away all right… straight to social networking to air her grievances and complaints! Yes… she took it to THAT public forum … instead of having the conversation. This was highly disappointing. Highly.Disappointing.
For a few days I watched her posts go from bragging about how content she was in the face of conflict to complain about how people have wronged her. This social networking platform was her way of hiding behind the problem. Some of her posts were out of anger, some of them were out of self-righteous indignation, some of them with the tone out of “don’t they know who I am?! they owe me!”… but one thing rang true, all of them were posted out of HURT.
I finally decided that I would email her, reaching out again to ask for a chance to discuss further. I again stated that I’d appreciate the chance to talk it out in person. But I also let her know that I was disappointed with how she was handling the problem. She was avoiding a resolution and instead taking it public. It was as if she was calling for the drama… and then it dawned on me: maybe she didn’t want a resolution.
When I finally got an email response from her it was IN ALL CAPS… defending her behavior, still rather upset and still handling this inappropriately. It was clear she didn’t hear my heart and that she wasn’t interested in resolution. PERIOD.
I made some tough decisions about our friendship and then prepared to deal with the backlash of it.
Do I regret not running away from the problem? No.
Do I regret holding her to that higher standard that I would hope my friends hold me to? No.
Would I do it differently next time? No… I am glad I finally dealt with it, instead of running from it.
I have learned in life that it’s ok if I’m not liked by everyone. I don’t need to compromise myself to be a people pleaser. And I don’t have to be friends with everyone I know. But I can be a decent human being. The best human being I know how to be. And while that sometimes is uncomfortable (stretching myself to do something new, react in a more healthy way, do it differently next time) well, that’s ok. At least I’m being the best person I can be.