War is something that is as old a concept as man. Since we were created we have found ways to be at odds with one another. Harmony is not the natural state of man.
If you think of humanity like water we are rarely perfectly flat and calm and glassy. When water is calm, there is an undeniable beauty, but we know it never lasts long. When there is peace among men we relish it but like a setting sun or glassy water we know with an often impending dread that time will cause this to end.
It's sorrowful for us that we crave conflict that our base desire is not to be even keeled and peaceful with one another. But there are reasons for this aren't there? Both good and bad ones.
Cain killed Abel because he was jealous.
Today in my house one brother fights another over territorial matters such as what toy belongs to who. Before long I imagine that it could progress to tape down the middle of the floor and "YOU STAY ON YOUR SIDE." What my boys don't realize is that they're fighting a battle that's been going on for millennia. It's normal or automatic or inevitable or maybe it's just human.
Governments go to war sacrificing their youth over tax money or oil reserves.
Husbands and wives battle over what to spend money on or so and so's parents or more likely because they've forgotten to prioritize loving each other.
Friends conflict over ignored texts and phone calls. Pain is inflicted and harsh words spoken out of hurt feelings.
Conflict is present in every relationship on this planet and if it does not appear present it's probably because someone isn't living truthfully in their relationship and is passive aggressively relating to their partner. Therefore the conflict is present and just unspoken.
But there are times when conflict is unavoidable or necessary whether or not we want it to be there. In those times we can feel drug into the conflict without choice in the matter. I have done my fair share of creating conflict unnecessarily in my past. But I've also been put in positions where if I didn't engage in the conflict it was going to cost me or my family a price that I wasn't willing to pay. That's such a dreadful unfortunate reality.
In those moments when we don't want to be there, we don't want to be fighting or perhaps we'd be more comfortable avoiding standing up for ourselves it is important to realize that just because we don't want to be in conflict doesn't automatically mean that we are morally superior. There are plenty of times that avoiding conflict is morally reprehensible. Not standing up for children who are being abused because you don't want to rock the boat is something most people would agree is not a moral high ground. But there can be a moral high ground. There can be a better way that leads us toward some conflict and away from others.
It is the abandonment of the winning mentality. When you are able to come to the conclusion that this conflict that you may or may not want to engage in is not about you being victorious. It has nothing to do with self, or ego or victory, you may have made some moral headway.
I have been engaging in conflict lately, largely because I am choosing to, but some of it was not of my choosing. Yet even as I chose to engage and fight for what I believe is right I was in this constant state of internal dissonance. Because in my soul I knew that I really didn't want to fight this battle. I knew that battling was going to cost me some internal peace. But I also knew that if I didn't begin to fight back, if I didn't begin to stand up for what I believe is right that I would ultimately be robbing myself from the peace I could have in the future.
To be sure there is a cost associated with conflict and that should be carefully considered. But many (myself included) would rather steadfastly avoid conflict than to weigh the cost and evaluate whether or not we think it's going to be worth it. There's always the possibility that we could be wrong. The battle could cost us more than we have calculated. But take it from constant worrier: it will never be as bad as you imagine it to be. It just won't. I have imagined hundreds of millions of scenarios and not one of the ones I have ever imagined has come true to the extent that I thought it would. NOT. ONE. NOT. EVER.
So there you go it won't be nearly as bad as you think it will be. But knowing that might not assuage all of your fears.
Because there's still this: what if it's wrong to engage in the conflict in the first place?
In this we have the ultimate example of that not being the case in Jesus. That God/man found more conflict and more grace to handle it in the mere three years of his ministry than you and I can possibly go through on a daily basis. And guess what? He didn't shrink back from it. He knew what was right and stood up for it.
So maybe you don't have the whole "being God" bit going for you, but you know that God was more than okay with standing up for what was right. You being made in his image should be more than willing to do the same. For if you stand idly by and don't stand up for what is right, he has also made it clear to us that you will be held accountable for that as well. But ultimately that leads us back to the same place: winning.
What happens when we go into conflict, be it with a family member or friend or with someone on the internet espousing heresy about God, what happens to our attitude? How do we know that our conscience is clear? How do we know were doing that from the right place?
We know when we have given up the win. We have given up on whether or not we're right. When we have given up getting that piece of paper that says "Shannon you were in the right now you can have whatever it is you were fighting for."
When you have given that up and it has become about you doing what you feel like is right before God and not about you being right in front of men, then you know. You will know, I am doing this for the right reasons.
Because as long as you're holding on to some notion that other people need to hear that you were right, or that other people need to tell you that you were right or that your enemy needs to be crushed and defeated and broken... your focus is in the totally opposite direction of where it should be. You will be filled with anxiety and tension and you will constantly be looking outside of yourself for validation.
But when you have sat with yourself alone and you have decided that this is the right thing for you to do. When you have sat with yourself alone and you know that you can do this on your own without a partner or someone with letters behind their name backing you up. When you have sat there and had the clarity to know - this is the right thing to do. Then your conscience is clear.
That is a beautiful wonderful feeling. The peace in that is truly miraculous. But that is not the end of your work, because after you have reached all of those conclusions; then you have to remember that it's not about winning. Then you have detach yourself from the outcome. You have to walk into that conflict and know that there is no certainty that because you're doing this for the right reasons that things will go your way.
Conflict is a reality in our lives. It is an uncomfortable one. But when we can embrace humility in it and abandon ego then we might have a shot at conflicting in a manner that honors God.