by Kenneth Justice
~ Its two days before Christmas and many people are gearing themselves up for the wonderful aspects of the holiday while others, are not necessarily looking forward to family dinners with cranky relatives. This past week at one of the coffee shops I hang out at, a friend of mine was complaining to me, “Kenneth, if you only knew what it is like to be in the same room with all my siblings and their spouses for a holiday dinner you would understand why I hate the holidays so much” he said
While on one hand I can totally relate to cranky relatives….as I have had my share of experiences during the holidays with relatives who aren’t very pleasant and somehow know just-the-right thing to say to piss people off…..there is another side of the coin that we should consider; conflict can often be a good thing.
For instance, five years ago I was sitting at coffee studying for a class and this older gentleman sat down next to me and started talking to me about music. I was only half-involved in the conversation and at a certain point he started rattling off his favorite musicians and asked me if I liked one in particular, “Actually” I said, “I really don’t like that musician very much, I’d rather listen to Bob Dylan” I remember saying….Well this started off a firestorm with the older gentleman because he either did not like Bob Dylan or he was offended that I didn’t like the musician he named and the next thing I knew, the old guy went ballistic and cussed me out calling me an f***ing idiot….
At first blush you might think the conflict that occurred between me and the old guy was a pain in my arse (especially since I was in the middle of studying) and you are right……but actually, the dude sitting at the table next to us witnessed the entire exchange and after the cussing old guy left, the dude next to me started up a conversation, “Wow, I actually know that guy who was cussing at you and I’ve never seen him like that before…..” he said. The two of us ended up talking for awhile and then when I ran into him the following week we had coffee again….its now been five years since that encounter and thanks to the cussing old guy, the person who witnessed the encounter has now become one of my closest friends; he’s been over to my house numbers of times, we get dinner together all the time, and we have coffee with each other at least once or twice a week.
One of my closest friends who died nearly two years ago taught me that conflict is good because it allows us to see what people are really like. Do you remember your high school years and how you thought one of your classmates was your ‘best friend’ but it wasn’t until some type of conflict occurred that you really found out what types of bricks your friendship was built upon.
This isn’t to say that I like conflict…not at all! Actually, I hate conflict. I tend to be one of those people who pushes conflict and confrontation off to the side in the hope that it will simply disappear. There have been some situations in my past; that because I kept putting the confrontation off to the side, I ended up allowing bad situations to go on a lot longer than they should have.
Back in college I took a lot of Literature and Writing classes and I found it interesting that conflict is almost always at the centerpiece of stories. Whether it is a memoir, a novel, a Hollywood movie, or fill-in-the-blank….every good story has at the heart of it some type of conflict which the antagonist must overcome…and it is the conflict which often contributes the most interesting elements of plot.
—-) In A Christmas Carol Scrooge must deal with all sorts of conflict, many which he brought upon himself
—-) In The Count of Monte Cristo, Dante is thrown into prison and loses the love of his life
—-) In the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold must deal with all the conflict brought by his crazy relatives who have come to spend the Christmas holiday at his house.
Too often we think of conflict as being bad….and in a way it is; but that doesn’t mean that we can’t end up using conflict for good, because it is how we respond towards negative situations that allows us to grow and mature and can in many ways bring us closer to our friends and family.
I hate conflict; I always have and I probably always will…..I simply don’t enjoy getting cussed out, getting drawn into an argument, or being treated like s**t. What else can I say other than that I’m human and I am often idealistic and wish everything could be beautiful and perfect. But life isn’t always beautiful and harmonious…..and that is okay. Because perhaps conflict exists in order for us to learn who we truly are…..perhaps conflict exists in order for us to figure out who our true friends are….
Then again, perhaps the truth of the matter is that conflict simply sucks.
I need another coffee,