We had just finished taking my grandchildren on a wild tubing excursion. For over an hour we trolled the lake looking for boats that made monster wakes, the kind of wakes that could get screaming children on a tube airborne.
The children’s laughter echoed across the lake and lifted my soul. Then out of nowhere it happened.
The sudden unsuspected conflict.
We were headed for our dock at idle speed. Of necessity we had to pass another dock. As we crawled at a snail’s pace and a safe distance past the dock, populated with watchful adults and laughing children, we waved our greeting. No smiles, no acknowledgement of any kind other than a tiny timid wave from one older woman.
“Hello,” I shouted. And waved again.
A large sunburned man suddenly leapt to his feet shaking his fist and yelled something to this effect, “You’ve got the whole *&%$# lake to do that, get away from here!!! ”
I wish I could tell you that my response was kind, something like, “God has a wonderful plan for your life (-;” But when confronted with unsuspected boorish behavior like this, my response is… shall we say… pointed and sharp. “Thanks for the friendly welcome.” I snapped. “We wave a friendly greeting and you respond like a mad dog?” I apologized for invading his special space, and offered to stay far away in the future. Then he said something about us being “lowly renters,” evidently as opposed to being “wealthy owners.”
I confess! I lost it!!! For ten years we have enjoyed creating memories on this lake. Never have we encountered such unreasonable belligerence. I guess I should have been wearing my “What Would Jesus Do” bracelet but instead I was wearing a pair of Nikes emblazoned with “Do it!” I confess! I did it!
The next moments were spent verbally responding to the outrageous arrogance I was witnessing. I used no profanity, but I gave this man a tongue lashing that left him covered with saliva.
I confess I do not handle sudden unexpected conflicts well. The motorist that flips off my wife (she usually drives) for no apparent reason and the man using a stream of obscenities in front of my grand children do not get a free pass.
How do you deal with them?
Then there is the other kind of conflict…
The slow simmering interpersonal conflicts.
These are the kind of conflicts that arise when your confidence in a family member, a friend, or a coworker begins to erode. Expectations lay unfulfilled and a string of disappointments lead to building frustration. This kind of conflict gives you plenty of time to find your “What Would Jesus Do” bracelet. You have time to reflect on your attitude and how it relates to God’s word. But I confess that my problem is this…
I tend to avoid conflict at any cost. AND I am beginning to believe that the cost is high. I know that conflict is a part of every relationship. I once had a man tell me he had been married for over forty years without a single moment of any kind of conflict with his wife.
Hoping he understood the humor in my response. I said, “Either you are married to a carrot or one of you passed away early in the marriage.” Every relationship will eventually involve conflict.
I grew up in a home where conflict was not allowed to be expressed. Questions were not to be asked. Topics of contention were never discussed.
Opposing opinions were never allowed to be debated. That may be why today I relish intelligent and vigorous debate between people who can disagree on politics or religion and still walk away friends. But that’s not conflict. That’s fun!
Interpersonal conflict is another matter. Therapy has taught me where some of my reticence comes from. Therapy has not yet totally helped me deal with this kind of conflict without great emotional distress. Maybe you can help me grow.
So here are the sincere questions I have for you. I want to hear how YOU handle these situations.
Am I the only one who has difficulty facing conflict?
Do you feel it is ever legitimate to let a person know that their actions are unacceptable?
Because of the irrational response of the dock screamer, my family refused to let me go over and try to reason with him. Is there a time when wisdom dictates to stop casting pearls to swine and walk (or slowly motor) away?
How do YOU handle conflict that arises when expectations of your family, team, or friends are not met.
How do YOU and your spouse handle conflict resolution?
Your comments on my last blog post were extremely helpful. I look forward to your respectful and thoughtful responses. Reading how you handle conflict will likely help me continue to move forward. BTW Has anyone seen my WWJD bracelet?[reminder]