Why Healthy Conflict Is Essential – Dr. Mark Baker

I’ve got some news for you that’s both good news
and bad news: conflict is essential. Now I didn’t say
that conflict is something to be overcome, conflict to something to be avoided,
conflict is something we work through; I said “conflict is essential.” Conflict is
essential to making you a better person. The ancient proverb in
the Old Testament says “as iron sharpens iron so one friend sharpens another.” That’s how it works in
life: when you have conflict that’s done in a healthy way with another person you get perfected in the process. People
come to me for marriage counseling and they say “I can get along with anyone except for
him” and I say “well of course — that’s cuz you’re
married.” That’s what marriage is. It it’s a place where you are sharpened like iron against iron, a place where
you’re taking off the rough edges of each other. All of us have unfinished business in
life and so we find ourselves attracted to someone who feels familiar in some way, who is gonna
take us to the deepest unfinished parts of ourselves and help
perfect us. God has sent you the perfect person on
the planet to make you more mad than any other
human being possibly could. But he has sent you a person who’s gonna take
you to the deepest parts of you that’s gonna help perfect you in a way
that no one else can perfect you. Here’s how it works: All relationships
have a cycle of conflict. The cycle of conflict starts
with commitment because we are essentially people of
commitment. Did you know that people who live together before
they get married have a higher divorce rate than people who
don’t live together? It doesn’t make sense! After you’ve road-tested a relationship it seems to
me when you get married it should be a slam-dunk! That’s not how it works. Once you commit
yourself to someone it changes you. Commitment changes us. So
commitment leads to trust and once you trust
another human being — once you’re all in — once you fully trust —
what do you think’s gonna happen? They’re gonna disappoint you.
Trust, then, leads to conflict and that gets us to a decision point.
You can do one of three things at this place — once you get to conflict in a committed relationship one of three
things can happen. One: you get out. You say “I can’t — I don’t want to
deal with this. I didn’t sign up for this! This is too
much work! I’m gonna go find somebody that doesn’t fight as much.” And good luck with that one by the way.
Number two: you can recommit yourself. You can say “let’s start the cycle all
over again. Let’s let bygones be bygones. Let’s just commit
ourselves; look: we’re committed, let’s just forget about the past and start over
again. Well that’s not a bad thing, but nobody learns anything new. You’re
starting the cycle all over again and we call this “gridlock.” Gridlock means: I
have recommitted myself to relationship but there’s nothing different. So what do
you think’s gonna happen if nothing’s different? You’re gonna trust,
you’re gonna fail each other and you’re gonna get in conflict again
and you’re gonna start the cycle all over again, only this time it’s gridlock because
nothing changes. Here’s the third option: The next time
you fight you realize God has sent you this person
to teach you something about yourself and in this instance you learn something new
about yourself. You learn: “you know what? I’ve been too
aggressive — you know — I’ve been too anxious — I’ve been pursuing this person in a way
that’s not helpful.” Or you learn: “I withdraw too much — I don’t really open
up — I’m not vulnerable enough — I have not shared what I need to share
that’s really vulnerable.” But the important part is this: the next
time you have conflict you’re not in it to learn something about the
other person and point out what they need to change; you’re in it to learn something new about
yourself. This time when you re-commit yourself in
the cycle it’s different because you’re different. And the next
time you fight — after you commit yourself and trust — you
have what we call the “anger of hope.” And the anger of hope is: “I know we can be
better because I know I can be better; because
this conflict is sharpening me as a person. I’ve learned
something new about myself so I’m gonna do it differently next time.
Now the cycle of conflict is actually an anger of hope because
you’re anger hopes that we can do it better. That’s
when you say after you fight “you know what? I’m glad we talked about
this” instead of “I wish we’d never brought it up.” That’s when the cycle of conflict is a
healthy cycle of anger. You can do that if your goal is to learn
something new about yourself. Next time it’s gonna be
different. I’m delighted to be able to tell you
that’s my book “Jesus the Greatest Therapist Who Ever Lived” is now approaching two million copies
sold worldwide. This book is a psychological look about
the teachings of Jesus. We all know his spiritual message — which
is what he came to tell us about. What most of us don’t know is that
embedded in his teachings are bits of psychological wisdom that
are brilliant for how to conduct our emotional lives
today. If you want to read more about the integration of psychology in the
teachings of Jesus you’ll be able to get a copy and judge for yourself: Is he
the greatest psychologist who ever lived? I think so.

Michael Martin

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