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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Story and Good News - Conflict

A story is nothing without conflict. It's a collection of pretty words, but not a story. In addition to having a setting, all stories tell of some sort of conflict. It might be the good prince fighting the dragon to save the princess or the old woman fighting her internal demons to become a whole person again, but there must be conflict for it to be a story.

Seek out conflict. I'm not saying that you should pick fights with people, but that you shouldn't avoid conflict. Running away from conflict is the same as running away from your story. Somehow we've gotten this idea that avoiding conflict is more like Jesus. We're told to "turn the other cheek." But that's not really the point that Jesus was making with that statement. He was saying to not use physical violence to enforce your rights as a person, but he was also saying that when someone is trying to take away your rights through violence, you stand there and look them in the eye. You refuse to be made into less. You seek conflict with them.

There's a difference between conflict and fighting. Conflict is when two people or groups disagree about something and engage in that disagreement. Fighting is when that disagreement is turned into a competition where there must be a winner and a loser. Too often conflicts devolve into fights, especially online. The faceless people making statements on the internet can just say anything to win the argument for their side, and so you feel like you can too. But fighting never produces resolution or reconciliation. Fighting only produces losers. Sure, you might win one, or even several fights, but eventually you will lose. That's the cost of fighting.

Healthy conflict, however, sees differences as a ground for discussion and exploration. Good marriages thrive on healthy conflict where differences are discussed and dealt with. There doesn't have to be a winner and a loser, both sides can share what they think and feel about the situation and then, together, you can come to a resolution. This takes time, practice and the willingness to understand someone else's point of view. We have to admit that we might be wrong. We might be right, but there's also the good chance that we might be wrong too.

Healthy conflict online is a powerful way to tell the story of good news. Take the time to truly understand other people's positions. Learn about why other people think what they do. Take the time to research and grasp why people think that you're wrong (that doesn't mean you are wrong). Maybe they have a few points that you need to hear. Unless you're willing to hear their points, they won't be willing to hear yours.

The truth is that some people will never be willing to hear your point in online conflict. They only want to fight. Don't engage in fights. If it looks like someone is just trying to be combative with you, stop. Don't engage with them anymore. It's a waste of your time and it only feeds their desire to fight. But when you find people who are truly willing to have a conversation to deal with conflict, you can share a part of your story with them and, perhaps, some good news.

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