The Missing Piece in Conflicts

Conflict: n. 1. A state of open, often prolonged fighting, a battle or a war. 2. A state of disharmony between incompatible persons, ideas, or interests. 3. A psychic struggle, often unconscious, resulting from opposition or simultaneous functioning of mutually exclusive desires, impulses or tendencies.

An empty space in our puzzle left for the missing piece

We completed our 2000-piece Starry Night puzzle two days ago. Well, almost completed—1998 pieces of it. Two pieces are missing. And as I said in my post The Puzzle of Collaboration, I’m OK with that. The unity we built in the process is more important than the end result. I’m thrilled knowing that we’ve organized a jumble of pieces into a finished picture, and we did it together, despite the stumbling blocks.

In this winter of the massive puzzle project, I’ve analyzed my own jumble of thoughts to piece together my internal puzzle about unity. I turned over several situations of disunity and conflicts in personal relationships, looking for the missing piece that kept me from feeling harmony about these situations. Ironically, just as I neared completion on the tangible puzzle this week, I uncovered several ideas.

Dalene sponsored a two-part introspective post at Segullah, A Stone’s Throw,  for readers to consider the conflict that arises often between women when we

assume things about each other without having all the facts or the rest of the story and thinking the worst of someone without truly seeing things as they really are

Her example looked similar to the puzzle I face right now in developing unity in some of my woman-to woman relationships.

As I considered her picture and my own, I found this talk, Learning From Our Conflicts by Gerald R. Williams. He shared an exchange of letters between two church leaders that led to a conflict. After some time, Joseph Smith, Jr. wrote that the conflict was . . .

. . . particularly calculated (when once fairly understood) to teach each and all of us the necessity of humility and meekness before the Lord, that He might teach us of His ways.

The missing piece about conflicts is that they humble us and teach us, before the Lord. And I noted this—it’s humility and teaching not before the other person, but before the Lord, whom I know I can trust to keep it personal and compassionate as he helps me repent.

I liked this statement at Simple Marriage, “If you’re always right, what’s that make your spouse? So what’s it like being married to a loser?” (Are You Making These Marriage Mistakes?) The same can apply to other relationships, just as well. The sting of assumptions cause more than hurt feelings that can just be erased or a lack of unity that can just be repaired in a simple way. Those stone’s, many of which seem well-intentioned, to aid our progress, actually impede it.

In my experience, when I’ve felt these stones upon me, I almost automatically move into a position of defense, where I feel like I need to justify my actions to the person, to others or to the Lord. That actually prevents me from saying, “She may not be right, but may there be a particle of truth in what she is saying that I can learn from and/or change?” The same is true from the other side, where I admit that I’ve also been, and where we often feel a need to also prove our position instead of ask ourselves as Dalene suggested, “Is this consistent with what I know about this person?” or “Could I have spoken in a more humble or approached my comments or actions in a more sensitive way?”

The speaker concluded that as we learn from our conflicts, they can be like a mirror that helps us see ourselves as we really are. With this perspective, I identified that the empty space in my conflict was not only humility but repentance. We each have something to change, whether it is large or small, which ever side of the conflict we’re on.

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1 Comment

  1. An Ordinary Mom
    Mar 27, 2009

    I really needed to read this today. It is an answer to many prayers. Thanks for your insight!

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