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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is not. (Max Lucado)

I believe that babies arrive in this world good. And, yet I also believe in the concept of original sin—as in babies show up self-focused because that’s what’s developmentally appropriate for a new creature who must figure out how to stay alive and well in the outside world. A baby isn’t worried about the self-preservation of anyone else yet—and that makes sense. To them it really is all about them when they first arrive. Babies don’t care if parents want to sleep or eat or whatever. They want what they want (need?) right now—no conflict in their minds.

However, as we grow, we begin to understand that others matter, too. But, boy is it hard sometimes to get ourselves to do for others and/or to be aware enough to realize that sometimes what might be right for us isn’t necessarily right for others or what they want. How we resolve those conflicts between our desires and those of others is really, really tough. Talk about conflicted, right?

I grew up in a home where my father tended to think my mother would want what he wanted, even if she expressed otherwise—which to be fair to him, she did not do often enough. By the time she started stating more of what she thought—after over twenty-five years of marriage—he didn’t really hear her. Sure she said she didn’t want to go to the football game, but who doesn’t want to go to the football game? Of course she would be tired from staying at the cast party but isn’t everyone tired?

I confess I am more like my father than my mother. As much as I try to figure out what others might want, sometimes I’m really into what I want. If there is only one chocolate left in the cabinet, am I going to save it for my husband (who also loves chocolate) or eat it? I’m fairly certain I fall more on the selfish line with that sort of thing, but I try to be a person who hears when someone expresses a direct request. (So, Sherman, if you’re reading, give me some direction on this chocolate thing!)

And sometimes we have to learn the lesson of awareness of others the hard way—by being told when we’ve been steamrolling over someone else. I am still embarrassed that my friend/employee had to tell me that you don’t joke about firing someone. Talk about insensitive—pointing out power differences and making light of someone else’s livelihood. I blush every time I think of that. But I changed. Thank goodness she was willing to say something to me and yet still remain my friend. She likely protected me from alienating others in my life in my days since then.

Then I also remember times I have stated my boundaries and/or my reasoning behind any boundary, but not felt heard. The other person continued to do what I asked him/her not to do or flat-out told me he/she wouldn’t change just because I wanted that change. I don’t want to be like my mother with my father and leave others guessing as to what I really think, but if the response I receive is not sufficient for my self-preservation, I either keep others at a distance or no longer invite them in my circle at all.

Some behaviors are considered universally objectionable and others are personally objectionable. If my request seems unreasonable to you, then maybe we have to agree to disagree.

Truth? I hate conflict—I want to get along with everyone and believe the best of everyone. But that is as unrealistic as thinking that those who don’t agree with me are horrible people from the get-go. We are all individuals who are likely to think differently in many ways from one another. Conflict is inevitable but there is some choice as to how we handle that conflict together and how often we are in conflict.

Back to that chocolate thing—I’m certain my husband probably recognizes that I’m a bigger boundary encroacher than he is. However, he is the epitome of that still waters running deep expression. If a boundary matters to him, it has mattered to him for a long time and when he finally mentions it, he’s going to mean it. Unlike my father, though, I think I realize that maybe that also means I’m going to have to listen harder and consider what I wasn’t hearing before.

But when someone else is bringing that spirit of conflict into our home, we are united in our desire to reduce that conflict’s effect on us. While we believe that living in the midst of constant conflict is a hard way to live, we especially stand firm in the belief that engaging in constant conflict is no way to treat people in your inner circle. Conflict itself is not a sin, but just part of living in this world and in relationship with others. Nonetheless, when it happens too often, it’s time to ask why.

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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Why did the chicken stop in the middle of the road? Because after analyzing Points A and C, it felt Point B was a more reasonable destination choice, albeit one that involved dodging traffic non-stop.

Although living in the middle of the road is often mocked as “fuzzy-headed thinking” or somehow as not taking a stand, sometimes I believe the real way to rebel is to choose to stand in the middle of the road. It seems that many people with extreme views simply cannot understand that seeing both sides of a topic can also be taking a stand.

I’ve probably been in this part of the road most of my life—lucky I haven’t gotten hit! Of course, I think I haven’t gotten hit because I don’t often make a point of setting myself up to get hit. Well, today’s Friday the 13th—who knows what will happen, right? How about I talk about politics, religion, and family values?

Just yesterday I read an article in the Denver Post about a legislative race for a seat in a “purple” district. The article quoted both the incumbent Republican and the challenger, a Democrat. Read the whole darn article twice because neither candidate said anything that angered me. In fact, the incumbent stated that that district tended to prefer moderate votes and his record shows that he did not always vote along the party line. Shoot, I’d vote for both of them!

Now, I’ve always thought the way to anger just about everyone along the religious spectrum would be to have both a Christian fish and a Darwin symbol on my car—not that I’ve done that, of course. I like to keep all my tires slash-free. I love Jesus, but I really, really don’t like all the hatred done in his name. If we’re honest, almost all faithful Christians focus on certain verses in the Bible more than others but we don’t all agree on where to put the focus. I prefer to stick with the “love your neighbor as yourself” and the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) angles for my focus, but boy is that hard in practice.

On another divisive topic, today my exclusively-breastfed baby (exclusively until she began eating solids) will be facing a nurse-in protest at her workplace. All I can say is I nursed twins—at parks, restaurants, parties, malls, swim beaches, rest areas, etc. when necessary—day-in and day-out. Thankfully no one ever asked me to stop nursing just because I was nursing. But on the other hand, I did feel I had some responsibility to keep some level of privacy to this very natural event. Of course, I had a right to feed my family as they needed to be fed without being relegated to a dingy bathroom or being hidden away from those who think breastfeeding is unnatural. However, that’s not the same thing as feeding my child in a kiddy pool and assuming that other people’s family members and children just need to get over their own unnatural response to seeing a woman’s breasts being used for what they are designed. See, I believe public breastfeeding should be about finding a middle ground, not one group’s rights trumping another group’s rights.

The chicken that doesn’t cross the road but stops in the middle of the road is liable to be a target for everyone else who crossed to either side. Nonetheless, every day citizens of democratic societies must dance with compromise— I still think it’s a dance worth joining even if most think compromise=weakness. Call it a “Stupid Chicken Dance” if you want, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that choosing to stand in the middle is chickening out of conflict.

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