My goal is to live a conflict-free life.
While I’m a long way from achieving this goal, I believe it can be done. And, of course, I accomplish it in bits and pieces of every day, sometimes several days in a row.
Since I set out on this goal several years ago, I’ve had a few stunning insights. The first is this: To conflict or not to conflict is entirely up to me. Whenever I get mad at Al, or we start up that escalator to an argument, I can stay on all the way to the vicious top, or I can merely step off and it’s over. I may still seethe, and need to find a quiet place to get control of myself, but I do not have to engage in conflict with him or anybody else.
And what am I angry about, anyway? I heard someone say on NPR a dozen or more years ago: “Angry words all say the same thing– they say ‘what about me?'” So when I find a little solitude to examine what’s behind my anger, I can usually settle myself down pretty well. What exactly is the source of my fear that makes me so small that I have to ask: “But what about me?”
Is fear the source of all anger? I think it is.
And I’m certainly not going to change him or anybody else I might be angry with, so if my motivations stem from subversive attempts along those lines, I see those pretty quickly. If I’m angry, then I’m afraid, and I need to look into that a little more carefully.
I learned in my twelve-step program that there are only two things to be afraid of: Not getting something I want, or losing something I have. Neither one of those things is really a valid fear, if I’ve got faith. If I’ve done my work, then what I get, what I get to keep and what I get to lose are really not up to me. I don’t have a lot of control over my life, but I have total control over my attitude.
I heard the other day that virtually every conflict within a person begins with a conflict between people. How annoying is that? But if not for a “potential” conflict (remember, my goal is to live without conflict) with someone, I would have no cause to examine myself. I don’t always like what I see, but it’s only when I actively look for the weeds in my personality that I am able to find them and pull them out.
But I don’t go looking for trouble, either. I don’t purposefully put myself in situations where I am likely to encounter meaningless conflict. I took to heart something Jack Canfield said to me one time: Avoid toxic people. Over the years, I have taken myself out of their company, and refuse to get sucked back in. A hard line to be sure, but I have come to look at it as a survival line. On my side is peace. On the other side is spirit poison.
Living conflict-free is quite an elusive goal, but the little glimpses of the serenity it affords are so attractive that I actively pursue it.
It’s a good thing I have a patient husband.