I saw this picture and it really struck a chord with me. (‘If you avoid conflict to keep the peace, you start a war inside yourself”) In my work, I deal with a lot of people who are conflict avoidant. Some admit that it’s a weakness, but most try to excuse their cowardice (and that’s exactly what it is) as being noble. Their more enlightened or more self aware or practicing self compassion or, and this is my favorite, more Christian. These are all just well crafted excuses. In truth, people who are conflict avoidant transfer the blame of all conflict to the other party. They believe that they are so “star spangled awesome” that any conflict that might come towards them is due to the other person’s faults and flaws. They’ve managed to make their life into a binary state where they can only be the hero in a story or the victim. So they avoid conflict. It is cowardice disguised and nobility. Conflict avoidant people are comfortable forfeiting their right to co-author the parts of their own story that they don’t spend alone. I try to teach and model this to kids. I am not always successful. Here’s my thoughts to those who work with kids.
For many of us, The Ranches becomes a tough place to work because of the inherent conflict that comes from addressing behaviors that we did not model or create in the young people that we must address those behaviors in. In our own homes and with the children that we being into the world, we can usually trace their behavior back to ourselves…or their other parent. In either case, we understand that the behavior is there for a reason. In the kids in our program, that behavior is less traceable back to it’s origin. It is, like the child in front of us, out of place.
In order to get to a place where this job doesn’t steal our joy and happiness, we have to get to some sort of reasonable footing with conflict. We never have to love or rush into it (leave that to me), but we do have to understand it’s necessity and worth. Conflict is a necessary tool when crafting and building young people; and it is especially necessary in recrafting young people who started life without a firm foundation. For fixing what is broken is always harder than building from scratch. Address the things that need to be addressed. Fight the battles that need to be fought. Demand the changes that need to be made. But, and I do mean this for all of us, never let yourself stop caring about YOU first. You cannot fill another’s cup if your own glass is empty. You must develop a pitcher that holds your reserves before you can start filling up cups that don’t belong to you. Comfort in conflict is one of the first ways to do this.