Conflict Sucks! But it just might be my best friend. That’s a bit crass, I know, but it comes closest to hitting the mark of how I typically react to conflict. My very conservative background tells me not to use this common colloquialism. My sensitivities to my social circle are clanging in loud alarm. But the word “sucks” works! I hate conflict! The knots I get in my stomach and that tightness on the right side of my back – the one that always gives me a headache if it doesn’t get relieved – testify to my displeasure at any sign of conflict. I could be polite and say, “Conflict is an irritant” but that just doesn’t say it. I suppose if I had the vocabulary of a Harvard professor I could come up with a word that says the same thing, in the same shocking tone, but with less offense. My education was great but I missed that class.
Saying that conflict sucks is shouting the human perspective out loud. It’s the earth’s-eye view. Seeing conflict as a good thing is almost never in my range of thought. I see trials, temptations, testings, and the like as gross inconveniences to my comfortable daily doings. I can say very glibly (especially with no conflict on the horizon) that we all grow when tested. I can repeat the worn illustrations of the tree that is strong because it endured the fiercest winds. I can trip merrily along on these quaint idioms until real, raw, conflict stalks into my world. Then I hate it. I want it out faster than it came in. I want relief and I want my comfort back. I don’t want the pressure and I don’t believe that it can really do me any good. There it is – that’s where I live. How about you?
So where did I get this idea about conflict maybe being my best friend? From James, the guy that many would characterize as being the sternest apostle of them all. We are going to learn that the various trials that come into our lives, regardless of their origin in evil or good, are to be esteemed like royal monarchs. They are to be honored and given heed as if they were kings and queens in full ceremonial regalia. They are to be treated as some of our dearest friends – not because of the pain and displeasure they bring – but because of the refining and fruit bearing they produce in us. James will show us that great gain often hides in the folds of displeasure and great loss is sewn tightly into the broad fabric of self-interested pleasure.
And what about the things that make me happy or bring pleasure? Where do you get off telling me they may be my worst enemies? We love pleasure don’t we! We are all closet hedonists. We want what we want. We know that pleasure as a gift of God is not evil so we excuse many of our wanton pursuits. I’m not speaking of God given pleasures and neither is James. James will be pointing out to us those pleasures that have slithered into the camp of the righteous masquerading as virtues. Those masked manifestations of our dark but lively old man. The ones we excuse and nurture and brandish at the time most appropriate to our advantage. The ones that are truly our darkest enemies posing as our dearest friends. He is about to expose them to the white-hot light of holiness. He will show us our love for them and make us recoil from ourselves in the realization. James never shoots but that he unloads the whole clip. Gird up, my brother, to face the man in the mirror.