I remember getting into fist fights as a child. It was a fun challenge for me that offered immediate results. Then that evolved into debates as I got older, mostly over religion, which also brought a sense of satisfaction. Each new phase of my life has rewarded me with a-ha moments making me stronger. My lifelong walk with conflict has taught me a lot and I would like to share a few things in this article.
Being the youngest of five kids (four boys one girl), I knew what it was like to get beat up and could take a punch. It became fun for me to learn my physical limits and fighting brought out the raw emotion in others and myself. This is what propelled me into studying martial arts. Ironically, this is also what taught me there was always a way for any person to physically defeat another. Today I would win in a sparring match against a training partner, but tomorrow he would learn from his mistakes and then defeat me. This cycle was endless and, although exhilarating, there was never a true winner or champion…only a champion for today.
Lesson 1: Physical Conflicts only provide a winner for the day.
This is also backed up in history. Think about Germany’s defeat in WWI. If they were truly beaten, there would not have been a WWII. They were defeated and made to feel inferior. Leveraging this is what gave Hitler influence to rise to power. Although, they ultimately lost this war too, they had many victories and destroyed the lives of millions. Those who survived the war on both sides were impacted for the rest of their lives. The Allies may have “won” the war, but it is fair to say, both sides lost. The same can be said for any war or physical conflict.
Verbal conflicts are not much different. We get into an argument with our boss or our spouse and although we have the winning quip or we present our case better and “win” today. However, the wounds we create fester and the first opportunity the other person gets for revenge is pounced upon. The cycle continues.
Lesson 2: No One Ever Wins a Fight.
So then, how do we ever truly win and resolve a conflict. We don’t. There will always be conflict in our lives and rarely will it ever be resolved. However, we can manage it and create wins for both sides so no one goes home the loser today. This is done by attacking the problem, not the person.
What is going on in the world right now is a perfect example. Every single person on the planet agrees George Floyd was killed by that police officer. There has not been a single credible debate against it. This is the common ground we should all be standing on while defining the problem together. Instead, there is finger pointing at people and the problem is being ignored…again. What is the actual problem? I am not qualified to define that. I don’t know what it is like to be a black man, but I have had several conversations with those who are and am doing my best to understand their perspectives.
I want to make sure I am not perpetuating the issues further. However, not a single person has ever asked me what it was like to be a white man. Let me be clear, I am not trying to claim a victim status or even file any type of grievance, just making a point that we need to understand each other’s perspectives and build on this common ground. We have to create a solution that takes everyone into account and not one that says one group is whining and the other is privileged; rather, one that says, “We are brothers and sisters under this American flag and we will have differences, but we will ALWAYS come together to support one another.” Most of us are blessed to live in the United States where there is great diversity and we will never all look the same, that is ok and we don’t need to. It is not until we learn the perspectives of each other and how we all feel about a problem to where we can truly defeat it.
Lesson 3: Attack the Problem, Not the Person.
Conflict is something that has been going on since the beginning of time and it will continue until the end of time, which I am guessing is sometime this year based on the last five months. We need to stop making the same mistakes and learn the lessons from the past if we ever want to move forward together.