Two Things You Need to Know to About the Relationship Between Conflict and Forgiveness

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Chin up – Literally. Here’s the deal. We have all heard the adage that it’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you respond that builds character, but I’m here to tell ya that it was nearly impossible for me to respond to conflict in a healthy way before I learned this little trick.

See, I have been prone to angry reactions for the bulk of my life and having some inspirational quote about ‘my reaction being up to me’ didn’t really suffice to inspire a change. Actually, because I became aware of my reaction weakness, I began checking my angry response before it surfaced only to find that I had nothing prepared to replace it. Great, that left me completely ‘response-less’. That snarky little something-something right below the surface of my calm exterior was apparently all I had.

Left with no good way to diffuse tense situations, I knew I needed to do my homework on why my conflict management tank only had one method. You see, I only knew how to end conflict by ranting my offender out the proverbial door. My response when I removed that options (insert bump on a log) was not producing results that diffused tension. I felt like the gazelle instead of the lioness. That was not a better option. Here are two things I discovered that changed my reaction: 

  • Not all conflict needs addressed. Yep. You heard me right. The angry driver that flipped you off (who even knew that was a one-way), the snotty kid in tech support and the bitchy checker at the grocery store are all exempt from receiving a response from you. You’re completely off the hook. Know that their lives or their days are worse than yours right now and you’ll likely need a little of that same grace someday when you’re in that moment so you’re just paying it forward. Get on with your day and don’t give them a second thought. 
  • Be forgiving. I’m talking about digging back deep into the reserves of all the times in your life when you were wronged and just throwing out some major forgiveness. I mean deep dive. Playground memories, the girl in the eighth grade, the family members, friends and foes that belittled and lessened your self-worth at different stages of your life. If you haven’t forgiven those people you will continue to recall all the shitty, shame-filled memories of things that people did to you. You, my friend, have built a reserve of angry feelings that you draw from every time you have a new conflict to handle. Subconsciously you bring up those old feelings and you dress up the things you wish you’d have said originally. Now you’re spitting those angry words at this new conflict. Here’s a quick lesson on forgiveness: 

1) Hold your head high and recall all that you can about the memory,

2) With your head held high, visualize the heart of your offender and note anything that would account for their behavior (age, maturity, upbringing, pressures, etc.),

3) Chin facing straight ahead, forgive them (do it out loud if you need or want to),

4) Eyes to the sky, hand it over to your higher power to manage (If you don’t have a higher power you should totally get one. There is real peace in knowing that you not in charge.)

5) Head held high, walk away and leave it there. You don’t have to tell them they are forgiven; you know it’s done and it’s your peace of mind at stake – not theirs.

6) Repeat for the next 40 years (to infinity and beyond) of your life.

Once you realize that not every conflict needs managed and that you are likely drawing some of your reaction to current issues from the left over feelings of past conflicts, you can approach life with this new head-held-high attitude that allows you to give some grace to people where they are at. Not everyone is at the same stage of self-development you’ve reached. Be forgiving and remember to keep that chin up.


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