how to embrace conflictOn every level of the scale, conflict divides mankind. When handled improperly – childish or maliciously – it can destroy even the sturdiest of connections. It can tear apart relationships between friends, families and even countries.

It seems ridiculous to think of it as the kind of thing anyone would want to embrace.

And, yes, in an ideal world there would be no conflict. No nuclear war and no petty bickering. People would agree on things. People would get along.

But people never have. And, if they ever do, it likely won’t be in our lifetime.

People make decisions based on their experiences and their desires. People don’t always empathise with the experiences and desires of others. People behave selfishly. People behave irrationally. People, with their limited knowledge of the world and their place within it, often don’t understand that something that’s great for them can be horrific for someone else.

So people disagree.

Sometimes when people disagree, it’s harmless. When a group of friends can’t decide where to go for dinner that will satisfy everyone. It doesn’t really matter. Then, causing conflict will only make a scene and leave you without any friends. Then, you can agree to disagree and get on with your lives and it doesn’t make all that much of a difference. It doesn’t cause any real damage that you want pizza but they fancy a Chinese.

But, sometimes, when people disagree, people get hurt. When someone sells sugar pills as miracle cancer cures. When someone privatises the water supply in a third world country. When someone decides that their money or their comfort or their god is more important than your rights. When someone refuses to vaccinate their kids. When someone in a position of authority decides they have the right to regulate people’s private decisions.

Then, agreeing to disagree means you’re getting stomped all over by the people who are bigger than you. The people who use their power to bully the people who aren’t as lucky as they are. The people who are happy to profit off other people’s suffering.

Then, you need conflict.

You need to able to take it by the hand and use it to stand up for what is right.

If you avoid conflict so much that you mindlessly agree with every opinion ever voiced, you’ll end up going along with a lot of immoral things. Or even if you don’t join in, you could let a lot of horrible things happen.

Irish statesman Edmund Burke is famously attributed with the saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And he is right.

If you avoid confrontation so fully that you would rather let evil or injustice or insensitivity pass by unchallenged, then you have failed everyone who suffers at the hands of those you did nothing to stop. Sometimes, someone has to stand up and be prepared to face a difficult argument to protect what is right.

And that right thing might be preventing the Nazi invasion of Poland. Or it might be getting your housemate to leave the kitchen a bit tidier so that other people don’t have to tiptoe around their dirty dishes whenever they want to eat.

But while violence and anger is never a solution to a problem, conflict can be. Disagreements rarely leave both parties equally culpable.

When someone is in the wrong, someone else has to be prepared to challenge them.

If you can’t be that person, who do you expect to do it for you?

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.

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