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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Conflict's Role in my Life

I'm a peace-loving person. Conflict is low on my list of favorite things. Yet somehow I've managed to live through a fair amount of it.

A marriage, if it lasts longer than Brittany Spears' or Kim Kardashian's, is an ideal classroom for studying conflict resolution. Since the dh and I have been wed for more than four decades, we've had plenty of study and loads of homework. That doesn't mean we're experts, but when you add in the practical lab application gained by raising seven competitive children, we're at least experienced.

Then too, during three of those decades, I taught at California State University, in the English Department. I well remember attending a cross-disciplinary workshop and introducing myself to a colleague. "Hi, I'm Mark," he said. "I'm from Math."

"Hi," I answered. "I'm Susan, from English."

Mark solemnly shook his head. With an expression of deepest sympathy, he said, "I'm so sorry."

Yep. English Departments are like that.

So what have I learned from all this conflict in my life? For one thing, I've learned not to rush into a situation talking. I try to stop, listen, get the lay of the land and understand more fully what's going on before walking head-on into a buzzsaw. (I seldom spoke in department meetings, either.)

I've learned to know who my true friends are and not be taken in by false friends. I've learned to be a true friend to those who are true to me and to honor those who have my back. I've learned to value trust.

Conflict may be the beginning of the story for our characters. In real life, it's sometimes the ending for us, but when conflict ends a story that hasn't really begun yet, there was never a story in the first place, was there?

What has real-life conflict taught you?

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