Words have so much power. Even in our minds. Saying the word enemy activates an anxious sensation in my spine. When we are in conflict with another, it feels safer to label them as “against us” or at the very least separate from us. Can we be brave enough to remove those labels and experience the conflict without defense? What would that look like? How would things change?
It is hard to understand someone else’s perspective when we are in conflict. Our brain tries to protect us with the fight or flight response, deactivating the parts of the brain responsible for reasoning. If the conflict is dangerous, this may be helpful. Most likely, though, our brain has interpreted our confusion or anger as a lethal threat. We have a lot of responsibility to learn to manage our brains, especially in a world so ripe with conflict. If we want to make a more peaceful world for ourselves and everyone else, this is where the work starts. Can we tend and befriend when confronted with misunderstanding?
If we learn to soothe our brains and bodies when in discussion with others, we will not only be better able to understand them, but we will be better at expressing our views. We have a much greater chance of changing the minds of others when we approach the conversation with calmness, non-judgment, and love. When we approach a conflict in anger, we shut down all lines of communication. What is our objective? If the objective is to find a solution to the conflicts we face, we must recognize anger as a symptom of the problem. We must explore our anger and fear, we must get to know and understand it, then we must set it aside. Setting down our anger is not a weakness, it is not giving up. It is this strength of wrangling our anger into clarity that has the power to unlock problems.
Are we brave enough to envelop a conflict with love? We can start small. Conflict is scary, but we cannot turn our backs on each other when we don’t agree. We cannot simply not talk to those who disagree with us. We cannot let conflict grow while we look the other way. We must face the scary feelings in our hearts and explore them in safety, on our own or with assistance from therapists, teachers or spiritual advisors. We must know ourselves, our values and our objectives. We must practice those values every day.
It is hard work to live in peace. It is not easy, and it is our responsibility to do our own work and stand beside one another.