“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it.”
My Dearest Daughter,
You recently witnessed someone being unkind to me and we had a conversation about it which I think is worth noting so that you can refer back to it later in life when it might be of service to you.
Daughter: Mommy, I wish you would have defended yourself.
Mother: There was nothing to defend. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I’m not in the business of policing people’s opinions about me.
Daughter: But it wasn’t nice and it wasn’t true. If you don’t defend yourself how will people know that?
Mother: I know the truth. You know the truth. Daddy knows the truth. These are the people who matter most to me. No matter what we say or do, there is no guarantee that we will change anyone’s opinion. It takes a lot of time, energy, and work to try and change someone and I neither have the resources nor interest. People do not have to share the same vision in order to share the same space. I think it’s more important to find a way to live with differences of opinion than to try to make everyone believe the same thing in order to get along.
Daughter: But doesn’t it bother you that someone is thinking something negative of you?
Mother: A little. It’s hurtful. But it’s not my truth so it’s not my burden to carry. Negative thoughts are burdens we carry. It’s our choice how many burdens we want to carry by how many things we view as negative in life.
Daughter: So that’s it? You aren’t going to fight back or defend yourself? You’re just going to do nothing?
Mother: There are times when speaking up or using action against the person who caused harm is important. In my opinion, this is not one of those times. The action I am taking is mindfulness. I am being mindful of the pain and confusion the person felt in order to lash out. The action I am taking is kindness and compassion for that person and for myself by walking away.
“Once you discover your true worth, walking away from where you are not valued will become the easiest hard thing you will ever do.”
The art of mediation is having a practice of mindfulness around strong emotions so that when they come about we can have presence of mind to be with them instead of being in reactive mode and lashing out at others. It’s not always possible to be in mindfulness and not go into reactive mode, which is why it’s called a “practice.” Do your best, that’s all you can do. As your great-paternal grandmother on Daddy’s side would say, “ Angels couldn’t do better.” As of 2016, I have been practicing this art for 30 years, I am still a mere student.
The practice is to help us remember that not everything we feel deserves a reaction. There are many things I feel each day about the people and places around me. I hold a lot of space for the pain of others. I choose to do this. When it becomes too much. I choose not to. And so it goes. These are internal choices. I don’t need to announce them to the world or to the person for whom I am holding energy. This is how I take care of myself and my needs. I give what I can, when I can and when I can’t, I don’t. Instead, I do what I need to in order to refuel so that I can continue to give.
I can see that it’s important to you to see that I “do something.” In that regard, I’m going to write. I’m going to process the pain. I’m going to take my focus off the hurtful person and put my focus on people and places which bring me joy. In this way, I’m going to move on. This is me doing something without getting reactive and combative. This is me doing my best to stay in loving kindness and compassion.
If my entire life were a container of salt, this particular experience wouldn’t even be a whole grain of salt; it would be an imperceptible amount that couldn’t even been seen by the naked eye. One of the first steps in resolving conflict is to adjust it to it’s proper size. We neither want to minimize or exaggerate our feelings or the feelings other’s have about us. We want to see them for what they are in the moment. We want to remember that what we put our focus on grows and what we give space to decreases.
When people declare a belief, they are usually declaring a feeling because most beliefs are actually just feelings that can be colored by internal and external factors which are always in flux. People define feelings as beliefs because that’s what serves them in the moment. But the moment changes and feelings change. Feelings aren’t facts. I can’t afford to take personal attacks personally. I’m tired. I’m in pain. Life is short. As your maternal great-grandmother would say, “Pick your battles.” A person or a battle can be worth fighting for, that doesn’t mean you have the resources it takes to fight. Sometimes you just have to let it be.
Daughter: What is a battle worth fighting for?
Mother: That’s a good question. It’s very personal. It will change many times over in the course of your life. The battles aren’t as significant as the way in which you choose to handle them. As I see it, there are three main ways of conflict resolution: The Victim Path, The Therapy Path and The Enlightened Path.
The Victim Path
When you are a child, you feel helpless, as if everyone is more powerful than you. From a child’s perspective, if you don’t fight, then you have lost, you are a victim. There are real victims who stay silent and don’t fight and act like everything is fine because they are afraid of being abandoned. They want everyone to like them and so they apologize for everything and ingratiate themselves onto everyone and never speak up for fear of upsetting others who will then leave them.
For God’s sake child, let these people leave you! Do not apologize for who you are. Neither defend or deny your truth just because someone else is bothered by it. Don’t be a people pleaser, if you are, you will never know who your true friends are. I hope you will never be a victim. You don’t have to fight but you also don’t have to stay. I don’t want you to spend a single second with anyone who doesn’t appreciate you. There are people who really love you, and know you, and see you, and get you for who you are; these are your people! Anyone who doesn’t is either being triggered by their own stuff which will pass, or isn’t the right friend for you. Trust me, Let. Them. Go. For every negative experience I have learned to let go of in my life, five positive ones have taken it’s place.
“The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away.” -Alyesa Harris
The Therapy Path
Later in life, you learn skills and tools for conflict resolution. You use “I” statements and express your feelings. For example, you say to the person that you felt hurt by, “When you do ______ it makes me feel _______.” Then they mirror that back to you to make you feel heard, “I heard you say that when I do _______ it makes you feel________.” From there, you go on to listen and really hear how your actions make other people feel and visa versa. While this can be useful in certain situations with certain people, it’s really exhausting. I’ve been there, done that, may have to resort to it again, but for the most part, would rather not.
When you decide to find conflict resolution by discussing or talking about the problem, you are essentially entering an agreement to assign mutual blame to another person’s words or actions. This method of conflict resolution can also make you feel responsible for other people’s feelings. This is something I’m not fully in favor of. While I think it’s important to always consider the feelings of others, how someone else feels is always their responsibility.
On the therapy path what often happens is that a power play ensues between the one who has already moved on and the one who can’t let go. It feels like a never ending cycle of mental and spiritual depletion. The therapy path can also be a slippery slope, rabbit hole that once you go down, only gets deeper and deeper.
My feeling is that if I love someone unconditionally, there are a certain number of flaws I am willing to over look. Unless they abuse me, I’m not likely to leave. I just deal with it when I can and get busy doing something else when I can’t. Successful relationships are based as much on learning to let things go as they are on all the fun and wonderful things you might share in common.
But for some people, there is no over-looking a blemish. They see it, they pick at it, either it festers or it goes away and they feel powerful and in control when they can make something disappear that they don’t want to look at. I don’t think these are healthy people to spend too much time with. They will always find fault with you. They are not happy and therefore being wth them is more work that pleasure. Be kind to them but perhaps from a distance.
The Enlightened Path
Now, by no means do I feel that I am an enlightened being. This could just as easily be called: The Path for the Old, Sick and Tired. For brevity and aesthetic sake, I will continue calling it, The Enlightened Path. On the enlightened path, you engage with yourself and others with mindful awareness. You make adjustments in the moment. When you find someone upsetting to be around, you have options. You can just observe what’s coming up and let it pass without action. Or you can use it as an opportunity to explore what it is in that person that you find upsetting that’s really a reflection of you. Usually, anything that upsets us in another is something that upsets us in ourself for it’s easier for us to find faults in others than it is to accept faults in ourselves. You observe and you move on. You don’t feed into the reaction you are having and the desire to control the other person so that you aren’t being triggered and going into reactive mode.
On the enlightened path, you observe and choose to take action or let it be. But the action you take is usually with yourself, an adjustment you make within, not an outward request to another. Our problems are not as much with the people around us, as they are within us and how we perceive the people around us. Every person has flaws. We cannot go around telling other people about their flaws, hoping they will change, in order to make our life easier. That’s a Princess or Queen mentality; a belief that the world revolves around you. My personal world may revolve around you, my darling daughter, but the world in general does not revolve around you or anyone else who stomps their feet and points their fingers and wants others to stop being who they are. It’s not the job of others to change in order to make you feel more comfortable. It’s your job to change yourself to be more comfortable with others. By “change yourself,” I mean, to either examine, accept or walk away from that which makes you uncomfortable.
On the surface, the enlightened path can look like the victim path, because there is little to no outward action. The difference is in how those two paths feel when you take them. If you do not feel empowered, then you are in victim mode, taking the Victim Path. If you feel at peace with your choice, then you are on the Enlightened Path. It’s not the action that matters as much as how it feels to take that action.
My life experience has taught me the dichotomy of life: people rarely change and yet the only constant thing in life is change. Your time is best invested in your own ability to change not in wanting or trying to change others.
Conflict resolution can be simple. People make it difficult because they like to fight, to engage in battle. The act of fighting makes some people feel empowered, especially if they feel out of control. But like energy vampires, they will drain your life battery and all your energy if you enter into that sort of engaging with them. Only you will know what you need to do and it will change depending on circumstance and person. For me, at this stage in my life, I am not interested in engaging around conflict unless I absolutely must.
There is a type of engagement on the enlightened path but it requires that both people come to the table with loving speech, a willingness to listen deeply and a desire to truly communicate. My belief around this is that if a person were capable of that, then conflict resolution wouldn’t be an issue, no conflict would have been created in the first place. Loving speech leads to loving action. But some people indulge in their impulses to be reactive in anger and blame and lash out and then they want to put on their spiritual costume and act as if they can resolve conflict peacefully. Don’t buy into that. It’s an unintentional ego trap and it will drain you.
“Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can be only forgiven, not forgotten.”
Spiritual people are flawed but they are consistent with their practice and intent. It’s unlikely that you would have someone who is actually capable of loving speech, who practices loving speech, suddenly instigate a conflict by saying something unkind in a reactive mode; but it can and does happen because no one is perfect.
Do not judge people by who they wish they were, say they are, think they are, or who you think they are or want them to be. Release judgment and employ real-time discernment instead. Know that sometimes even the most loving people falter. If they are truly on a spiritual path, they will bring themselves into check on their own. They will apologize. They will let it go. They will move on.
But if you are dealing with someone who is very attached to ego, they will want to fight, discuss, hash it out and will have a very challenging time letting it go.
“A man asked Gautama Buddha, ‘I want happiness.’ Buddha said, ‘First remove I, that’s ego. Then remove want, that’s desire. See now you are left with only happiness.’ ” -Gautama Buddha
Please don’t engage. Your life force is too precious to waste it in this way. Just allow some gentle distance to flow between you and the other person and let time heal the situation.
If that doesn’t work, you have three choices:
1. Learn to live with it. Accept it. Let it go. Move on.
2. Stop engaging with the person and move on.
3. Engage and move on.
Since they all end with moving on, I suggest taking the path of least resistance, the vast majority of the time, which is #1.
I usually reserve #3 for survival mode situations that involve our health, home, etc.
It’s that simple.
When you see Mommy walk away, trust that I am at peace. I may be hurt but the hurt will pass. There are other times, when you see me speak up and fight, like around your medical needs; because only your medical needs or our survival needs are what I deem worthy, at this time, to use my energy for in regard to conflict resolution that requires the other party to be present.
You have seen Daddy and I argue and work out minor issues. Sometimes it’s quick and painless, other times it’s angry and hurtful but we have learned during those times that we are not our best selves because we are tired or compromised in some way. But, because our love is unconditional, you have always seen us come back to each other, point out where we went wrong, not where the other person went wrong, and apologize. That’s what unconditional love does.
If the person you are having conflict with is not engaging with you from a place of unconditional love, I still invite you to continue to come from a place of unconditional loving kindness. Allow space to breathe between you and this other person but when your paths cross, remain open, accessible, authentic, loving and kind.
Your trust may have been breached or betrayed and the relationship may go through a period of redefinition or it may end. Whatever happens, let go, let it be, release attachment and raise your vibration to grace. This is all you can do. I trust that you will work out your hurt on your own and lay down your anger and blame; emotions that only harm you and your health.
There are many ways to handle conflict resolution. Do not assume that when Mommy or someone else walks away and chooses not to engage that they are playing victim. Sometimes, they are simply choosing the enlightened path, AKA, The Path for the Old, Sick and Tired.
From The Butterfly Quotation Box: “Words are made for certain exactness of thought, as tears are for a certain degree of pain. What is least distinct cannot be named; what is clearest is unutterable.” –Rene Daumal
(Quotes are given credit whenever credit can be found. Sometimes they are from internet memes, fortune cookies, or random discoveries.)