Conflict at Christmas can be good…REALLY???


christmas and conflict

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,



Categories: relationships

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58 replies

  1. Our inner self are tested with conflict. Just like fire purify the gold


  2. I tried sending you a animated piece on empathy. It made a distinction between annoying people that try to put a silver lining on a storm cloud and those that really listen.. I woke my 21 year old up to go shopping for her birthday present. She was grouchy and said some awful things. I told her the truth. I am not fond of her childish guilt trips. It was a bumpy road, but I think she may have grown up a little emotionally, from our conflict. She did my Tarot reading. She said this card says “Life is all a Party” Mom, you just don’t see it. Yeah, well next time you think a 21 year old is mature, think again.

    • Ellen, I didn’t get the empathy link 😦

      And my personal philosophy is that I don’t wake anyone up no matter their age!! lol, not saying everyone else has to live by my philosophy but I find that it works well for me; if people sleep in then it is their fault, not mine.

  3. I am known for fleeing from conflict myself…either that or dissolving into a puddle of tears! However, in recent weeks, I have begun to discover that it’s in the midst of conflict that you realize the depths of your own convictions…those things that are negotiable and that which is unwavering.

  4. I just don’t have a good relationship with my relatives… Let’s say they’re awful and that’s enough to define them, lol.
    I spend Christmas with my mother and brother and I guess it’s enough for me. Spending it with my family is the same of having headaches and troubles. Christmas is great, with great people… u_u”

  5. I prefer to take on a joking angle when there’s conflict. Seems easier.

    If I’m offended or my feelings truly hurt, I will close up like a clam. Reflect, sometimes for days, on whether or not my feelings are justified. If they are…the red head comes out. If they aren’t then I’m actually relieved that someone called me out on my ridiculousness.

    As far as the old guy, you should buy him coffee for finding you such a dear friend.

  6. Thanks for the like on my blog. Enjoying checking out your blog. I’m impressed with your daily routine.

  7. For the first time ever – not your fine words and profound thoughts. But … in the picture at the top of today’s piece … why has the lady got an alien searchlight beaming from her head?

  8. Now there’s some thoughts to mull over while sipping my own coffee this morning! Enjoyed this–the overall theme of conflict = Excellent observations!

  9. You got into a fight over Dylan… how cool 😉 How weird to get upset because someone doesn’t share your preference in music.
    I grew up in a family (five girls) who thrived on conflict. They still do, I’ve gone my own way. I used to always feel like I had to address everything, that I wasn’t afraid of speaking my mind, etc. After a while I got tired of living that way- I’m also really sensitive so conflict was actually painful and would stay with me for a long time. Now I focus on being more peaceful, and it’s better this way.
    I agree with you about conflict being necessary for growth and change, but I also think part of maturity means learning to just be quiet and walk away sometimes. Probably like everything most people should be somewhere in the middle, not looking for a fight but not afraid to speak the truth either.

  10. Very interesting.. I hate conflict so much, I end up running away/ avoiding the day before it should take place; loosing/missing life chances along the way.. Thanks much…

  11. I don’t like conflict either, however I like your comment about how it is that through conflict you can find out who someone really is…. I guess I have done that.



    • in that circumstance . . . yes, maybe . . . but I doubt anybody actually really knows anybody else. We are so big and so powerful we can do and be so many things. We can change quicker than my e- mail can get across the continent . . . who can know that?

  12. Very good piece….thank you for writing it….

  13. Not all conflict is bad. I always say anger can be a good thing as well, judiciously applied to a problem. However, there is a difference between conflict that is being constructively approached and conflict where one side is simply toxic concrete.

    Unfortunately, in family situations, one often encounters a fixed agenda where one side has absolutely NO intention of changing, moving, resolving or ANYthing aside from using every verbal barb (and possibly physical jabs as well) to wound and harm their target.

    For years, in such situations, psychologists kept advising “engagement” — apparently operating on the dictum that nobody would stay immovably recalcitrant forever. But in the last decade, someone finally shook the headshrinkers up enough to notice that, actually, YES, some folks HAVE transformed themselves into self-propelled human poison dispensers. They now say if that is the sort of toxicity one encounters it is healthier to DISengage and stay the hell away from such folks.

    Once that choice was embraced here? Holidays of all sorts became much more peaceful, pleasant, and unmarred by hostile drunken debacles.

    • “fixed agenda” I like that description. So true…..too often when family conflict occurs it can involve so many factors that can’t be resolved, and I find that sometimes the best tactic is to smile and act cheerful, ignoring the temptation to argue

  14. Conflict exists solely for the purpose of allowing us the choice to choose between conflict and peace. Conflict brings out the worst in all of us. . . and that worse can grow exponentially as we allow it . . . until the guns come out.

  15. I wish you the best time this year, Kenneth. Less annoyed relatives for Christmas!

    It’s good to test people, friends…I’d not say conflict is the best way to that. I would say play a game, cards, backgammon,scrabble etc. is a way to find out how someone deals with losings 🙂

  16. Attitude brings conflicts but if handled in a respectful, positive way we can see a better opportunity . Conflicts can be test tool, so don’t be fool 😀

  17. You are a man after my own heart. 😉 Merry Christmas!

  18. Conflict opens conversation and a chance to understand someone else’s opinion. Just stay calm andkeep it cool.

  19. I completely agree. I’ve often said a relationship can’t be guaranteed until the people involved have their first fight. If they can resolve that conflict with the relationship in tact, then they probably stand a chance at the long haul. How we deal with conflict defines our compatibility with others.

  20. I started out reading this post and disagree with you but by the time I got through it, I have to admit…there is some truth and wisdom in this here post. 🙂

  21. Bob Dylan!?!?!? What an asshole!

    Kidding, totally kidding. Although I’ve heard Bob can be one . . .

  22. I would like to let you know that I have nominated you for The Most Uplifting Blogger Award as I really love your excellent, thought provoking blogs and look forward to each and every one. Please see for the details of the award.

  23. “…taught me that conflict is good because it allows us to see what people are really like.”

    That is one good thing about it for sure. Then you write off those people, LOL. You know, shake the dust from your feet and move on. I love it! I think I will write a post about conflict, for it has been going on a lot around me, seeing it at work and at church…GASP!

  24. It’s been quite a week… I needed to read this. Wonderful perspective.

  25. Greetings–Just catching up on my reading stuff now that the Christmas buzz has come and gone. I am enjoying your perspective. The ‘tour’ sounds like it would be quite an experience–I hope that you are able to pull it off. All the best for 2014–JIm

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