Have you ever fought well? I have, very recently. And, today I find myself reflecting upon what makes a great fight.
Over the last two weeks I found myself in pretty significant conflict (twice) with one of my closest friends. For those who know me, that might not be too surprising except that I had never really fought with this person before and we’ve been friends for years. I was feeling put upon and taken advantage of and was really angry about it…and my words and actions didn’t exactly hide it all that well (surprise!). In fact, I acted like a jerk instead of saying what I was feeling to the person who needed to hear it, my friend.
In the days leading up to a real conversation about what was going on, I found myself in the middle of a tug-of-war between two formidable foes: the way I’ve always done conflict and fighting well. On one hand (guess which?) I had rehearsed in my head the validity of my anger and innumerated again and again wrongs that were mounted against me. On the same hand I wanted to just make nice and forget it all ever happened. And then there was the other hand. On this other hand, while I longed to be heard and understood, I also longed to feel the weight of what I brought to this conflict. I knew on some level that this moment was not just about me, nor should it be. This other hand, the stranger hand, invited me to a territory that is only beginning to be familiar– a place where neither “I” nor “you” prevail, but “us”, the friendship. A place where we leave knowing and caring for each other better because we’ve both shown up and been valued.
I wondered if I could do it. Could I enter into the conflict without wanting to be declared the winner? Could I fight for the friendship instead of fighting to win?
I entered. I fought. And this is what I learned:
- Caring for the other does not mean giving up yourself.
- Forfeiting self is failing to care for the other.
- We can both be right and both be wrong at the absolute same time.
- What hurts me matters and to love me is to hear me.
- What hurts you matters and to love you is to hear you.
- To defend what I did to hurt you is cowardess.
- To err is human.
- To love is divine.
- True friendship is divine.
So, today I’m giving friendship and conflict a second thought. Maybe, just maybe confict is not something to be avoided at all costs. Hmmm. I know I can’t imagine what it would have cost me to avoid this one. But, fighting well is not easy. I found that it required me to look my own sinfulness square in the eye and call it what it is. But the tougher task was to face my desire and to risk by exposing it. In this conflict there was something that really ticked me off, but there was also a desire to know, “will there still be an us when I fail you?”
Vulnerability, the strangest component of fighting well.