Learning from conflict will make any dad a better one.
“A joyful heart is good medicine”, wrote Solomon, “but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Prov 17:22).
In his context, Solomon understood ‘joyful’ to mean delight, celebration, a form of cheerfulness, the shining of something bright.
There’s a reason he speaks of joy and being crushed with a slight pause between two breaths. A joyful heart and a crushed spirit are not polar opposites.
Heart and spirit are what makes body, mind, and soul. It’s the who, why, and how, in the what that makes us whole.
We can either let conflict tear us apart, or work our way through the conflict, as though it were offering us a fresh start.
Solomon understood that a broken or crushed spirit wasn’t devoid of meaning. His point is that even though conflict can, and will, break men, it can also sharpen and mature them.
At the heart of conflict, there is always a greater wisdom looking for ways to break through. This wisdom is what can be gleaned off of being destroyed, wrecked, cut off, and abandoned.
For dads, conflict can be the catalyst for growth, or course correction.
Manage conflict well, writes father of four and leadership coach, Dave Smith. The question “is not how to eliminate conflict. It’s how to manage conflict.”
According to Smith, healthy conflict is what we find between the constructive and destructive sides of what he calls ‘The Conflict Continuum.’ Neither side is ‘optimal.’
Constructive means of dealing with conflict can be passive aggressive. For example, workplace conflict resolutions tend to prop up an ‘artificial harmony’.
Another example is playing happy families, never addressing the elephants in the room, or enabling corrosive ‘secret squirrels’, who play family members off each other.
Destructive means of dealing with conflict speak for themselves.
Either way, little is gained, and nothing is learned through allowing this kind of fake status quo.
Walking on eggshells to avoid conflict is a sure sign conflict is being mismanaged.
In his seminal work on anxiety, Dr. Edmund J. Bourne was adamant that avoiding conflict because of fear or anxiety was a recipe for making conflict worse. The only way to mitigate conflict is to manage our way through it.
For Smith, as with Solomon, managing conflict begins with humility. In Solomon’s illustration of a ‘crushed spirit’, contrition is the midwife to wisdom and maturity. Smith writes:
“Acknowledging our own predispositions is the start of more healthy conflict. And dads can take the lead.
We can begin each conflict with a humble attitude. And an open mind.”
This includes, he said, having a “willingness to listen. To hear what others, have to say.”
Of having, “a genuine desire to find the best solution. Not necessarily our solution. Focus on solving the problem, rather than fixing the person.”
Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.
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