Conflict is a part of everyday life. We are at conflict with ourselves probably more often than we are with others. Yet, conflict with others comes without warning. Having not predicted many a ‘current situation’ (read: “Houston, we have a problem.”) we end up being flummoxed by an unreasonable other—who might reasonably think we too are being unreasonable. Hence a conflict emerges.
People who were, only a moment ago, our friends and dear family—besides acquaintances we end up in conflict with—can, for a time, become enemy No. 1.
Without anticipation, apart from the wonder of 20/20 hindsight, we find ourselves disposed to anger for betrayal, as they are too. But there is another outlook that comes into view, even in the midst of the conflict—even as we and they fight.
This outlook is the vantage point of compassion; for what they are going through.
Switching Our Focus
We struggle to get past ourselves. This is especially so in conflict. We polarise into our unmet needs, forgetting the significance in the other person’s needs. Their needs are equally significant.
When we switch our focus onto their needs, trusting God to provide for ours, we not only have the opportunity to see what they are going through, our attitudinal perspective becomes less emotional in an instant.
All we are really called by God to do in this relational world is love others as we would have them love us. That’s easy enough to achieve when things are going swimmingly. The true test is whether we can do this at times of conflict.
But when we switch our focus, trusting God, even just to simply enquire within our minds how the other person experiences this conflict, our compassion nurtures fresh insight. We gain some God perspective. We don’t just see our narrow standpoint.
Switching our focus has the effect of steadying us emotionally so we can work toward outcomes that benefit everybody party to the conflict.
When we achieve this perspective we find our own agenda is not worth fighting for; but the God agenda is. Sometimes we may actually be advocating for the God agenda, in which case we must simply revise our mode of engagement so ‘the enemy’ doesn’t feel so cornered.
Turning conflict into compassion starts with us. When we treat others as we would like to be treated, we become less threatening and we invite reasonability to the conflict. There is justice in a love like this. It works.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.