In your ideal life, would you have low points? Think of the way your life would go ideally. Would you want to experience the difficult times if you didn’t have to? Most people I know say, “I wouldn’t trade the difficulties of my life, because they have made the person I am today.” That’s not to say there aren’t some things that we might wish we didn’t go through, but most people I know wouldn’t get rid of the difficult experiences if they could. It was in those difficult moments that they found the strength to be the person they are today.
At the same time, I meet very few people who run toward as many challenges as possible. Instead, the general idea is to feel the highs without the lows. We live with mantras like “Make yourself as comfortable as possible” “Enjoy your life” “Just have fun” and “Be happy.” Those phrases end up framing our worldview, and if we’re not careful, those ideals can easily rob us of the life we really want.
I believe we’re supposed to experience the valleys of life. We’re supposed to face difficulties. We’re supposed to be challenged. And we’re not supposed to run from those things. In a story, the only way that a character grows is through conflict. If there is no conflict, there is no growth.
Most of us don’t love conflict, because we are afraid of what it might mean. This makes sense, because conflict poses a few problems for us. We may not know what the result of handling the conflict will be, and we don’t know how we will handle the outcome of the conflict. So we run from the conflict.
The problem with this is that our focus becomes running from the things we fear. I believe there are two primary mindsets of fear that lead towards our avoidance of challenging circumstances.
1. We may fear challenges and difficulties because we are afraid we will fail, and we hate the feeling of failing again.
2. We may fear challenges because we are afraid we will succeed, and we don’t know what we would do with success.
If we don’t face the conflict in our lives, we won’t grow. If we don’t grow, our story doesn’t change much. Instead, our future becomes recycled portions of our past played out with a different soundtrack. Same story. Different time.
Here are a few strategies for conflict:
1. Define the conflict. What is the actual conflict about. What is the challenge you face. What is your emotional response. What are the other possibile realities going on in the situation. Sometimes, we can have a huge emotional response to a small conflict because we haven’t looked at different sides of the present circumstances.
2. State the worst possible outcome. I’ve done this in various conflicts I face. Very rarely is death a possibility, which means the story doesn’t conclude. After I’m able to see the worst possible outcome, I can usually move forward with some confidence and urgency. (This isn’t to dismiss huge conflicts.)
3. Seek wisdom. Ask God for wisdom. James 1:5 tells us to do so. Talk to a few mentors. If you don’t have mentors, get a few. (Your best friends who automatically take your side don’t count as mentors by the way. That usually ends up being gossip instead of godly counsel.)
4. Give yourself a deadline to face the conflict. You may not resolve the conflict immediately, but once you face it you will begin to have traction towards finding a solution.