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I'd rather be right...

conflict painting

"Our love of being right is best understood as our fear of being wrong." -Kathryn Schulz

This past week I had a really hard conversation with a close friend. It was uncomfortable, I immediately wished we were not having it, and I had to fight my tendency to back track and smooth things over. If you have not gathered it yet by this previous sentence – I hate conflict. I can cause conflict – that’s not a problem (because, you see, I’m also opinionated…) I start to run into problems when there is not an easy solution to what caused the conflict and there is a chance it can continue…indefinitely.

I started to look inward and wonder “where does this come from?” I believe some of it comes from God. I believe he wants to restore all things and that His plan before the fall was for there to be no conflict. So there is a piece of me that is responding to an image built inside of me (Imago Dei for you Latin scholars), the image of God that gives me His desires. By the grace of God I can long for the things He longs for!

I’m tempted to stop writing right here. It would be a lot easier to simply say ‘run after that image of God inside of you that says conflict was never supposed to be here!”  Unfortunately the other half of this equation is the ugliness of my own heart.

I want to run away from conflict because I don’t like facing the possibility that I can be wrong. I’m not a megalomaniac (at least I don’t think I am…) but I definitely think I’m an ‘ok’ person. I like to think that I’m well read, articulate and able to logically sift through data and details to form a thought or opinion. Somewhere in that process I hear the flow of my argument and a little voice says “man this sounds good…in fact, this sounds REALLY good! Keep going!” We receive feedback internally that most times tells us we’re right (even if you’re self-deprecating you still believe that your view of yourself is the correct one). It’s a vicious cycle that feeds itself – with more belief that I am right, I keep going with the assumption that what I’m building on is…right.

Sounds really ugly when you write it out like that…but it is way more subtle day to day isn’t it? This conflict with my friend, I had a moment in the middle of the conversation where I started to think: “Why are you holding on to this so tightly? What if what you’re saying to him is not entirely accurate?”

There was a break in the loop.

This is not to throw out conviction and the fact that I can have opinions that might be right. However, my insistence on avoiding conflict has developed over the years as a protective mechanism – a way to avoid having to challenge my prideful feedback loop that keeps pushing me forward with confidence.

There are some concepts in counseling that when working with two individuals who are in conflict – you can't look for truth in either one or the other, it’s always somewhere in between. What if I had approached my friend with the understanding that a lot of what I am holding onto may be true and right (some of it was biblical!) however, he was also someone with the Imago Dei – he is an image bearer of God being made more and more to look like Jesus every day as well? Truth is somewhere between us (bear with me…I promise I’m not a relativist!) I wish I had the presence of mind in the middle of the conflict to really hear what he was saying, challenge my feedback loop for gaps and invite him into challenging me. You see, my perception of my ‘rightness’ is flawed. And more often than not, I’ve given myself more credit than I’m due, and in the process I have refused to experience the Imago Dei of someone in front of me – that they to have a certain ‘rightness’ in their thoughts as well.

If we both want to bring honor to God, if we’re both being redeemed every second of every day from the sin inside of us by His grace, then we have to both be willing to be wrong.

What does it look like for you to fight against your prideful feedback loops and empathize with those around you?