As part of my job (and probably most people’s jobs) I have to sit through a fair share of meetings. In order to stay engaged during those meetings, it’s important for me to pay attention and take part in discussions, otherwise, I find myself distracted and distracting. Meetings become much more pleasurable to me when they include people who are smarter and wiser than I am, which happens frequently. As a learner, I am always intrigued by discussions that push my own envelope a bit.
The other night, I was sitting in a meeting and I was partially engaged. It probably helped that some of us had taken part in a healthy and competitive game of cornhole before the meeting. I am finding more and more how important it is to not just be serious with one another, but also to have fun with one another, especially when you work closely together. As we sat talking about the future and where God was leading us, someone said something which struck a chord with me. We began to talk about conflict and someone uttered the phrase, “lack of conflict equals lack of trust.”
I sat there astounded and intrigued at this phrase. Did I agree with it? Was it true for me? Did it seem true in the experiences that I had with others? As I expounded upon it in my own mind, the conversation around the room also allowed for it to expound and I began to see the truth behind it.
We often treat conflict as if it is a bad thing. Conflict and tension are often things that are to be neatly disposed of with as much expediency as possible. But there is value to both when they stretch us and cause us to think in ways that are different than we would normally think. Conflict and tension can cause us to break out of unhealthy patterns which may have lulled us to sleep or complacency. They can shake us out of that slumber and cause us to reevaluate our approach.
To the phrase that was uttered though, a lack of conflict equals a lack of trust. A further explanation of it prevents misunderstanding. My own interpretation, and I think the intent of the speaker, is that if there is a lack of conflict, it may be because we are afraid to voice dissent to something. A lack of trust can cause that fear and results in our inability or unwillingness to share the conflict that we have. If we feel that trust has not been established, why would we be willing to share the things that conflict with our own opinions or desires?
There are certain settings where this might not seem as significant as others. In families, this is important. What happens when we disagree with the decisions of our spouse or children or parents or siblings? How do we respond when we feel that inner conflict? Do we voice our opinion or do we sweep that conflict under the rug, assuming that it will stay there, out of the way and unobtrusive? If there is trust between us, we will feel safe to express that conflict, to be honest about our feelings, and to allow that conflict not to divide but to unite.
I grew up in a family where we would lay things on the table. Family meetings during times of conflict were fairly commonplace. I appreciate that my parents were willing to face things head on rather than sweep issues under the rug. I am who I am because of the approach that I learned and have now embraced. It was never comfortable, but it was worthwhile.
Lack of conflict equals lack of trust. Think about the places where you have conflict, and the places where you don’t. Are they places where trust has been established? Do you feel open to share your opinions, especially those that might be in opposition to the majority? Are you afraid to allow the conflict to come to the top and be dealt with? If so, why is that the case?
No, I don’t particularly care for conflict, but I see its benefit. Many of my life lessons have been learned through conflict and I can safely say that had those conflicts not occurred, I might be lacking in some of my valuable experience. Think about it next time you face conflict. Will you face it head on or sweep it under the rug?