I was out of town when I received a voice message from my friend Gwen. I’d been at a conference all day and couldn’t be reached, so I sat in the hallway and listened to her words. She was hurt, she mentioned, by something I’d said earlier in the week, and she wanted to know my intentions behind it. Had she misunderstood me?
I dislike conflict—especially conflict with people I love. Three or four years ago, words like this from a friend could have sent me into a tailspin. I would have felt anxious and unsure about our relationship, questioning her love for me and our friendship’s footing.
But this time, I was sighing because she was right. I was sighing because I knew that I needed to apologize. I was sighing because, honestly, I was tired of being a sinner. I was tired of hurting the people I love the most.
I connected with Gwen, explained my intentions, and repented for where I had sinned. She was more than gracious. She was loving, and she forgave me. And I wasn’t worried about where we stood; I knew our friendship was solid.
For someone who used to avoid any form of argument as much as possible, I felt oddly buoyed by the realization that I was, in fact, getting better at this conflict thing.
The Grace of a Fighting Friend
Gwen is nothing if not honest. When we became friends, it quickly became apparent to me that she never shied away from conflict.
When our friendship grew closer, I learned she also wasn’t afraid of a fight. In fact, she welcomed it. She was never bullheaded or self-righteous, but if there was something between us that didn’t feel healthy to her, she brought it up. I initially had a difficult time reconciling Gwen’s welcoming attitude toward conflict with friendship. The two seemed to be at odds.
But Gwen’s friendship has been a grace in my life. I’ve learned that conflict, handled well, leads to intimacy. And the inverse is also true; intimacy can’t exist honestly without conflict.
What Holds Us Back from Conflict
I wish conflict didn’t exist. My preference is that relationships could roll along without any fights, arguments, or disagreements. But if we get up every morning and actually interact with other humans, we know that conflict—or at least the possibility for conflict—is everywhere.