If we're talking about conflict resolution, I think it's important to note that being in conflict can be really hard. To have something big unresolved or unsettled between two people can be emotionally draining and physically exhausting. This can be even further complicated if the person you are in conflict with is someone close to you like a spouse, partner, or close friend. The conflict can carry into our jobs, our relationships with other friends and family, our relationship with God, and sometimes even our conceptualization of ourselves. At its peak, conflict with someone we love can have the power to be all-consuming, making every area of our life seem "off." Knowing that "big" conflict is typically not resolved in a day, how can we weather the storm of relational tension while still maintaining peace within ourselves and our world around us? One solution is the predictable patterns of self-care.
Now, before you roll your eyes at me, we need to establish right now that self-care is not exclusively a woman at a spa with a facial mask and cucumbers over her eyes. The type of self-care I'm talking about is different- it's not a once-in-a-while activity like getting a massage or taking a vacation (though please do these things!) This kind of self-care is instead an activity, practice, or meditation that you can go to find rest, consistency, and a sense of self. And this sense of self is the really important part, because in the midst of conflict we often feel that we don't know how to "be" or who we are. We falsely conclude, "Everything is different! Nothing will ever be the same."
In those spaces, we need to speak to our uncertainty and fear. We need to remind ourselves that, although this conflict is stressful and overwhelming, there are a few things that have not changed. There are things we can count on to be true, despite everything else feeling out of sorts. To find these things we need to ask ourselves, what can I do, outside of this relationship, that is life-giving, stable, and predictable? I'll give you some examples.
Self-care can look like running or walking a familiar route. The trail you take is known, familiar, and unaffected by the relationship in conflict. The homes, streets, and places you pass are wonderfully and graciously unaware of your tension with your spouse. You could also do something like cooking a meal for yourself. Bread, in the same conditions, has predictable rise and fall. A recipe has objective instructions that yields a consistent outcome. If you are in conflict with a friend, water still boils at 212 degrees. Re-read a favorite book. The characters, the story, and the ending are the same regardless of that last phone call with your mom. Remind yourself that the sun always rises, your coffee tastes the same each morning, and the mail is delivered every day but Sunday. Can you hear these patterns and rhythms of establishing grounding through knowing? We care for ourselves and we regain stability when do small things that are familiar and wholly for our own enjoyment. This steady cadence provides the consistency we need to see conflict through without becoming consumed.
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