What is the purpose of conflict?
Some people spend their lives trying to avoid it. Others can’t seem to get out of an endless cycle of conflict — almost as though they are seeking it.
We would never fight in a perfect world… right? The reality is, that conflict actually has a purpose, but the selfish interests we bring into it tend to obscure (or deplete) its value.
Conflict is a method by which we can understand each other better — and even encourage each other. When we enter into a conflict with a priority on restoring a relationship, we can experience productive outcomes — the kind that can make us better people who have a stronger bond than before.
Consider the following examples:
- A mother and her son clash over his desire to get a tattoo. In seeking to understand her son, the mother realizes her son doesn’t feel valued for who he is. As they find common ground, the mother is able to reaffirm his value and her love for him.
- A brother and sister quarrel over the brother’s approach to money. In listening to the brother’s perspective, the sister learns about the fear and anxiety driving his unhealthy spending patterns. Instead of viewing him as negligent, she finds a way to help her brother and keep him grounded as he works toward better habits.
- Two friends have an intense disagreement about an offhand remark one of them made. Over the course of their conversation, they uncover a misunderstanding that has created a lack of trust in their relationship. After clearing up the confusion, they are able to move forward with a greater level of transparency and resilience.
Many of us know how to fight, but we don’t know how to fight in a way that preserves our relationships instead of tearing them down.
We typically respond to conflict with fear, closing our fists instead of opening our hands to the other person. We come into the situation afraid of being hurt when instead we could be trying to discover an opportunity to build a relationship.
But when we recognize that conflict has a purpose and can be productive, we can respond with courage and humility.
We will be thinking, “What can I learn?” instead of “How can I win?”
Don’t be cowed by conflict. Fight like you mean it. Fight to build up the person you care about, understand them better, and defend their best interests. Collide for the purpose of encouragement and restoration, for shoring up weak spots, for healing old wounds.
You never know — you might be able to help a friend or family member in ways you couldn’t have before.
“Fight to build up the person you care about, to understand them better, to defend their best interests.”
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