Conflict is part of life, because relationships are part of life. Where there are relationships, there will be conflict. We also experience conflict within ourselves if we strive toward any modicum of personal growth.
To become non-combative suggests that we refrain from engaging in these relational and inner conflicts; or at least that we engage in them differently.
A MONUMENTAL TASK
To suggest we might be able to refrain from all conflict for just one week feels like an enormous impossibility. Take me, for example.
I currently work primarily from home. In that home, I have a spouse and three children, ages ranging from 6 to 12 years old. We homeschool our kids in the classical tradition. So we are around each other a lot.
I can’t think of one single day in the past week when one of us didn’t raise our voice at least once. And that week was no different from all the weeks prior.
Our kids get along with each other decently enough. And they are generally well-behaved. But we are a selfish lot.
Being around each other so much means that there aren’t many quiet and private nooks in our house. It’s rare that I can be at home and be by myself.
Though I sit at my desk to work, just like I’m doing right now, I still hear my girls’ voices from the other room (through two closed doors), and the incessant sound of my son’s basketball pounding against the driveway cuts through all barriers to wriggle its way into my ears with a nasty persistence.
In this setting, it is way too easy to react to a simple inconvenience with an overreaction of pent-up frustration. And that’s the problem: being combative is easy.
Being combative is our default posture. We react to circumstances and situations in relationships with an habitual tiger stance. We are ready to pounce at the first sign of stress, or infringement on our selfish desires and ways of seeing the world.
Perhaps we should try to learn how to resist our combative natures.
We should try to learn how to resist our combative natures.
Many of us have this same posture when it comes to dealing with our inner conflicts. We have forgotten — or maybe never learned — how to be non-combative towards ourselves.
If we’re honest, we are likely more violent and ruthless with ourselves than we are with other people. Because of this, we seem to live in perpetual states of shame, never pleased nor satisfied with who we are.
Now, granted any project of personal growth requires that we are dissatisfied with who we are on some level. But it should be a dissatisfaction that prompts us toward positive growth, not that keeps us stuck despising ourselves.
If we are to ever learn how to follow Jesus’ simple directive to love others as we love ourselves, then we might first need to learn how to really love ourselves. This will require us becoming non-combative toward ourselves and toward those areas of our inner lives that do not please us.
If you are interested in becoming non-combative this week for Lent, start by asking yourself some questions. What are the areas of my life where I do participate in conflict? What relationships and situations in my life carry a continual state of conflict?
Then this week, try this:
- Be deliberate in carving out at least 30 minutes of solitary silence this week. It likely won’t be found in your home. Go to a nature trail, or a secluded park, or the shore of some body of water. Sit, think over the questions above, listen.
- In those moments when you are reacting to conflict in a combative way, when it is over immediately write down what you feel and what you think about how you acted. Then forgive yourself. Finally, write down the way you’d like to handle such a situation in the future.
- Consider investing in therapy or counseling. I’m a big believer that we all could benefit from regular therapy. Don’t make this a counseling session with a pastor or mentor, but with a licensed professional. You may find some strategies to deal with conflict in healthier ways.
All the resources for the previous weeks of “Becoming ‘Non’ for Lent” can be found here.