My Year of Peace: Peaceful Conflict

Conflict... a scary word for many peaceful people. I am a master at conflict avoidance, and I have a bag full of passive aggressive tricks that help me to fight dirty while still looking quite peaceful when I am forced to deal with conflict. As I am pursuing being a more peaceful person, I already know that the area of conflict is going to be one of my biggest challenges.

It kicked off immediately this week. It was not a very personal conflict, and much of it was actually related to things that I read online that I disagree with. For many people, this kind of conflict is easy, but it tends to be the area where I fight dirtiest, where I am least peaceful. The cover of a computer screen emboldens me to attack more brutally and sarcastically than I usually do in person, especially over issues that really do matter to me personally. One of those issues is the whole gender issue. I am an egalitarian, and I feel very strongly about it, but I do not always offer much grace to those who don't see things my way.

Earlier this week, I was reading the Christians for Biblical Equality blog. They had a really interesting post about hyphenated names that I had already read, but I decided I wanted to read it again. I was scrolling through the comments and noticed a few that really annoyed me. One person equated name hyphenation with wives rebelling against their husbands. Another just started blasting egalitarians in general with most of the usual attacks. I started to tense up, but then I noticed that one of the egalitarian members started launching fairly juvenile attacks right back at the second offensive commenter. I paused for a second because her attacks also made me tense up. She made many assumptions about the anonymous commenter that made me very uncomfortable. This was clearly a case of two people fighting dirty. Fortunately, one of the admins posted a long comment in which he addressed both and illustrated how to disagree in a peaceful way. He merely expressed what he did and did not believe in a respectful and intelligent way.

This was an important illustration for me because I was faced with some similar conflicts later in the week. One of them was at work during lunch when I sat down in the middle of a debate about health care. I feel strongly that our health care system needs reform, but I am not sure what is the best way to go about it. I know that my views are somewhere in the middle of the current debate, but I am sadly not informed enough (despite reading articles about it from both sides) to state my views very clearly. In this situation, I realized that listening would be a more fruitful and peaceful way to participate in this debate, and I was participating. Listening is an action, and sometimes it is the only correct action to take during a conflict. I actually learned a lot from my colleagues and walked away with respect for each of them, no matter their opinions on the subject.

I won't really share the details of the other incident except to say that in this case, simply listening silently was not the best course of action. The issue at hand was one that I am very informed about and is very personal to me. The person I disagreed with had said something mostly in jest. Normally, my fear of conflict would tell me to say nothing, but I would hold that joke against the person. That is not real peace, so I decided to share my feelings about it. The result was actually very pleasant. I walked away with a much greater respect for the other person, and I felt good that I had shared how I felt rather than simply holding a grudge about it.

Peace is not an easy black and white way of living. It requires wisdom, and most of all, it requires me to consider my actions prayerfully.

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