None of us like conflict, or knowing someone is angry at us. It’s our nature to be in harmony and “connected” to others. People may say, “I don’t care if they’re mad at me, that’s their problem”, but the heart truly doesn’t rest until the conflict is resolved. The discontent caused by personal conflict often translates physically into stress, lack of sleep, anxiety, and other symptoms and behaviors that can wreak havoc on our bodies, hearts, and minds. This is certainly true for me and is well documented in the scientific literature.
Personal and relationship conflicts can be especially complex when layered with the history two people share. What may seem to be a simple issue, can start tumbling down a hill, picking up bits and pieces from the past with it, until an avalanche of unresolved issues and previously stifled feelings ensues. These types of personal conflicts often affect more than just the two people in disagreement. Families can get caught in the wake. People take sides. Hurtful words and realizations bubble to the surface.
When conflict does arise between us and another human, we might ask ourselves, “what part of this do I need to own?”. If the relationship is important to us, we reach out to initiate a fix, forgive, apologize, or do whatever we need to once again create the harmony and connection that allows us to move on in peace. But it’s not always that easy. What if you feel you’ve done all you possibly can to create peace, and conflict doesn’t resolve? What if the person is not receptive to your olive branch? Can you decide to be “done” with someone?
The Cost of Growth
As we grow and learn, we change. I am not the same person I was even five years ago. I have abandoned some old behaviors and picked up new, healthier ones. I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things, and I’m not embarrassed to say, I have some regrets about past behaviors and things I’ve said. If we were all held accountable for those behaviors and comments of our past, most of us would have some explaining to do. Changing and growing is a beautiful thing! But as we expand our lives, some relationships no longer “fit” within our new way of living, just like our old behaviors. A conflict is often the revealing event.
If you survived 2020, guaranteed you had either a political or virus-related disagreement with at least one person. And because disagreements have their way of revealing larger defects in relationships, you might be questioning if certain connections are worth keeping. I know that sounds crass. I am not saying people or relationships are expendable or a commodity to be thrown away. And just because you disagree with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be friends. Relationships, after all, are essential for humans. But there may be people that are no longer in alignment with the way you and your heart currently live or directly go against your new grain. Some folks may possess the ability to mentally drag you down and throw you off your path. These are the people you feel bad around and to whom you find yourself consistently feeling like you have to defend yourself and your choices. How can this possibly be good or healthy for you? It’s not.
Relationships are essential to help us to create meaning and purpose. They require time, energy, and a piece of our souls. However, when a relationship is taxing your mind, your heart, or keeping you up at night no matter what you do, it’s okay to let it go. You don’t need to continue a painful relationship with someone just because you are bound by history or even blood, especially if you’ve attempted to repair it. Relationships are supposed to feed our souls, not spoil them. There is nothing selfish about taking care of yourself. And you certainly will not be getting a badge for tolerating people and things that make you feel bad. The cost of you feeling bad is huge, and it spills over into every aspect of your life and the rest of the world. Don’t worry, you’ll get your share of your own crap to deal with in this lifetime. You shouldn’t have to put up with someone else giving you theirs too.
What You Can Control
Here’s what I know. You can’t make people love you. You can’t make them want to spend time with you. You can’t make anyone understand you or forgive you. You can’t make people do anything. You can only create and find peace within yourself, for yourself. How? Set and keep boundaries with others that honor that peace. Release yourself from ill will and discontent towards others. Practice mindfulness through whatever medium you like, prayer, meditation, yoga, music, whatever. Stop expecting from others. Treat people well. Find time for service if you can. Forgive yourself when you mess up. Concentrate on your relationship with YOU and what you’re putting out into the world. And lastly, you go right ahead and block that person from your phone. Happy Valentines Day.