The winter months are typically when we spend the most time indoors, often resulting in more time spent with others. This can be easy or difficult; that is the nature of relationships.
As I write this, I am spending time with my family of origin. I love them, even if relationships can sometimes be difficult. Typical of many families in Canada, mine endeavours to avoid conflict. We are pretty good at it! Good, that is, until we reach the breaking point and finally blurt out something to the person involved. By then the conflict has escalated and the result is usually messy. Not fun.
Someone once postulated that conflicts are like earthquakes. Earthquakes are necessary once in a while, as the grinding action adds heat to the earth’s molten core; which, in turn warms the planet enough to maintain life on its surface. This would be a nice analogy for someone living in, say, Saskatchewan, where there are no earthquakes!
I do know that interpersonal conflict can be both damaging and growth-creating, depending upon how the parties manage it. Some of my most memorable times have been a result of an exchange in which conflict moved into reconciliation, a deeper appreciation for each other and healing. These experiences always happened when both of us valued the relationship – and each other – enough to hang in there, creating a stronger connection. Instead of regurgitating the past or worrying about the future, we become present with ourselves and each other.
A young woman once told me that the meaning of life was “to live life fully in the present moment.” I was awed – such wisdom from such a young mind!
I wonder if she is able to work through conflict better as a result of staying present with herself and others. After all, (pun aside) being “present” is a true gift, one that others usually appreciate and respond to with warmth.
Resolving conflict in this way leads to deeper, more meaningful relationships and lives. I don’t think that most of us like conflict. Yet the longer we avoid the conflict, the greater the likelihood that the resulting conflict/pressure/quake will be larger.
I love the story about a man who dedicated his life to helping the Grecians and Germans heal the wounds resulting from the Second World War. He established a reconciliation centre on one of the Grecian islands. When he was asked what the meaning of life was for him, he took a small mirror out of a pant pocket. He said that this was the remaining piece from a German motorcycle that had crashed nearby. He had polished its edges smooth. Using the fragment to reflect some sunlight on the faces of each participant he said that he sees his purpose as shining some bit of light into the dark places of people’s lives and souls.
May this year be one of opportunity, bringing light to unresolved conflicts so that your life might become more deep, meaningful and rewarding.
Ian Gartshore is a local relationship therapist.