“Tell me a good story you’ve read or a good movie you’ve seen that doesn’t include conflict. It simply won’t happen. Some of the best stories you and I can think of have tremendous amounts of pain, conflict, and problems.”
from chapter one ,”Pretending to be Human” in Authentic Christianity: Why it matters for followers of Jesus
The reality is every good story (even your story) has conflicts as well as triumphs. And part of the triumph is letting others in on the conflict. This is where true connection with another happens.
Conflict, pain, and problems.
We all experience them.
They are a normal, even daily part of our lives.
No one (well almost no one) likes conflicts, invites pain or enjoys their problems.
At the same time, human beings have an almost insatiable desire to fix them, or eliminate them.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes capitalize on this fact, promising a product to make our lives better. Or more doable.
It’s appealing. Attractive.
Less conflict. Less pain. Less problems.
Sign me up!
Our society carries the ancient myth that “the good life is a conflict free life.”
Maybe you’ve fallen for this.
And because of this, you find yourself not letting others get too close.
To your conflict, problems, and pain.
So you keep it surface and shallow in conversation.
Because if they knew you…and all the crap you go through (or went through), they might perhaps run immediately in the other direction.
So you settle for being politely distant with people.
Perhaps you’re often disingenuous, providing only the positive information that others want to hear rather than the truth.
You may have friends, but you isolate the real you from them.
The “you” that is left is a downsized version of yourself that is void of the many problems you keep from others.
You’re pretending to be human.
How do you get out of this mess?
Number one: Acknowledge that conflict is part of life (including your life).
This doesn’t mean that all of your problems are necessarily “God’s will” (meaning right and good). It does, however, mean that God created the kind of world where problems, pain, and conflict are an ongoing part of life. God may not have perpetrated or orchestrated them. It may simply be that God created the kind of world where the choices and actions of others may affect you. Just as yours (both good and bad) may affect them.
Number two: Live honestly with yourself.
On the one hand, don’t pretend your life is so much better than it is and that you never have problems. On the other hand, you don’t need be gloomy all the time either. Acknowledge what is good and what is not good. Be honest with what is happening with you internally. If you have a habit of avoiding conflict, pain or problems, then you may likely have a habit of suppressing your feelings when life gets uncomfortable. You may also have tendency of not dealing with the hard things of life. One safe method to practice dealing with and reflecting on your internal life is by keeping a journal where you can utterly and completely honest with yourself. You don’t have to call it a diary, but the concept is the same. Sharing what you feel in a safe place. By sharing your internal life in the safety of your journal, you give yourself the permission to reflect on what is going on inside you instead of stuffing it. You may eventually find the courage to share what is going on with others who’ve gained your trust.
Number three: Live honestly with others.
For starters, practice answering the question, “How are you?” with an honest response. It’s expected in our society to say “Good” or something similar when asked how you’re doing. But if you’re not “good”, don’t lie about it. Be honest. You don’t necessarily have to tell complete strangers all your deepest darkest secrets, but learn to be real and genuine with others. In general, begin speaking truthfully to others about your life. What you say about your life should correspond to what is actually happening in your life. It’s incredible what practicing honesty does for your mood, character, and relationships with others. Honesty with others opens up parts of our minds and emotions that enable us to feel acceptance and give acceptance. Honesty has a way of making others trust you and creating opportunity for true and meaningful connection with them. Authenticity is critical.
Number four: Seek help from a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor. When numbers one through three is something you’re not ready for or unable to do, ask for some help from a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor on how to be more honest, especially those who practice honesty consistently. It doesn’t always have to be a qualified licensed counselor, but I can say from experience that a counselor can be incredibly helpful in guiding you to uncover unhealthy mindsets and habits that keep you from being you and engaging in meaningful relationship with others.
Our stories are powerful and meant to be known. The fact that they involve conflict is part of what makes them our stories. Rather than conflict being a reason to distance ourselves from others; it should be one of the driving reasons for connection.
And by the way, you’re story is not fully written yet.