My mother always told me that where there are people there are conflicts. I can’t quite tell if her saying is true, because I don’t work with lots of people. I write at home or spend time with my kids. I’m friendly with many but have a deep friendship with only a few. I am conflict-averse. A peace-maker.
In the past few years, however, conflict chased me. I got divorced, and though I worked hard to establish peace, my efforts only brought more strife. I began to wonder if avoiding conflict might not be the best idea in the long run.
Today I find myself again in the center of conflict. The details matter little. It’s the entire idea of conflict that I dislike. I am badly prepared to recognize disagreement. I take people’s words as they sound, rather than discerning facial expressions or gestures that would alert a more observant person than I. I have too much belief in being able to mollify, and am continually surprised when people aren’t. And feeling so unprepared, I wonder, could I learn how to have a fight?
Some years ago, a friend recommended a continuing studies class at Stanford called Interpersonal Communication. In the class, groups of twelve men and women met to discuss how people see each other, react to each other, how their methods of speaking work.
As normal for me, I was quiet in the class, rarely participating. One woman told me bluntly that I was a flake. I didn’t know what “flake” means and had to look it up. I did not engage in conflict with her over this accusation, nor did I talk much with anyone in the class. Except, I found a friend, an Iranian man as quiet as I, who I sometimes meet till today.
Perhaps I could learn in this lifetime how and when to engage in conflict. But maybe a better idea for me would be to embrace my peace-making nature. And yes, perhaps peace-making will irritate people and cause conflict, but if I remain true to myself and my good intentions, surely everything will eventually fall into place and come right?
In the book I’m reading by Alon Hilu, Nadav, the soldier, is on his way home for a weekend. At a bus stop he looks up at the sky and invites peace and love into his life. As he stands there, feeling his heart open and soar to the clouds, a heavy hand falls on his shoulder. It is the military police, and Nadav is fined 1000 shekels for shoes that are not clean enough.
The world is strange, is it not? A box of chocolates, and we never know what we’re going to get. I feel sad about this new conflict, but maybe in ten years I will look back and there’ll be some aspect of it that I can seize on and say: It was for the best, and now it’s done.