7 Things to Consider About the Beauty of Conflict

7 Things to Consider About the Beauty of Conflict

Ever been in a conflict?

Ever been asked how you handle conflict in a job interview?

It’s got a whole section devoted to it in our interview manual at the church.

The answer is obvious: we have all had to “manage” (side note: I had a professor in college who said we cannot even use the term “conflict resolution” because it doesn’t really exist) conflict at one point or another, more likely EVERY point AND another.

Where there are people (and words) there exists the great and infinite potential for conflict so we had better learn how to manage it.

In light of the ubiquitous nature of conflict, we had better get comfortable with its inextinguishable flame. Below I seek to give you some tools to do just that.

One of the things that inspired this week’s post was a recent church conflict down here in Southern California. Without going into too much detail, this church was a “satellite” campus, a “daughter” location of a central “parent” church location in a different city nearby.

The leadership team of the central campus had a sharp disagreement with the leader of the “satellite” campus which led to his subsequent termination (and re-hiring) and ultimately to the “satellite” campus breaking away from the “mothership” if you will.

In fact, this particular church, and their lead pastor (who is my age) had just come through the heart of the storm and decided to host a “town hall meeting”-the contents of which are on video.

When I heard they had filmed it, I scrambled to watch it. My main motivation-knowing that this pastor is my age and stage of life-was to see how he handled things, how he communicated, what questions the people asked, how he responded… the social scientist inside me abounding.

The truth is: he did a fantastic job. It seems apparent, not just from watching the film, but talking to members of the church, that this young man is a strong leader with a strong sense of identity, calling and vision. He stood by his guns while graciously and humbly “leaving well”-not slanting or bashing or breeding further damage in his departure (which by the way is far from an “overnight” process).

He was branded by fire and the beauty of conflict-because of what it produces-was on display for all to see.

So here are the learnings from this case study for better management of conflict if we are to see the beauty on the other side.

Consider their side…

I’m not a very empathetic person, but I do believe that I can fairly easily read people’s interest, motivations, wants and needs especially in conflict which is primarily driven by people’s desired outcomes. If you can pause for a couple of hours; a couple of days and consider the other side’s desired outcomes, their potion and why they are passionate about staking a claim, it will move you far quicker to resolution and productivity again.

BEAUTY: when we acquiesce and accommodate we are working toward better collaboration which are major keys for leading successful teams.

Consider your sound…

This one is similar in that you must go outside yourself, but equally valuable in that we sometimes get caught up with no accurate, unbiased opinion of how we come across-how we look, sound, seem in our verbal AND non-verbal communication. You want to understand your part to play in the conflict? Then one of the early steps is to consider how you came across.

BEAUTY: when we exercise self-awareness and perspective in this way, we embody the honesty and integrity that all great leaders must carry.

Consider the end in mind

(This is the leave well part by the way). There are countless and when I say countless I mean COUNTLESS quotes I’ve heard on this principle, but I’m figuring that’s because of its timeless worth but they range from:
‘love is a revolving door’ to
‘don’t burn the bridge you may have to cross over again’
The truth is clear: even if you think you’re right-the most right and correct and innocent person of all time-you must still resist the urge to leave poorly.

BEAUTY: all strong leaders are visionary; in so many ways managing conflict is about the willingness to forfeit battles for the sake of winning the war.

Consider coming to the table

There is no such thing as long distance conflict management, remote conflict resolution or reconciliation by proxy. Every single instance of reconciliation begins with seeing someone. All restoration begins with: eye to eye; human to human, “the same grace that we require, they require” (the young man from the church conflict above actually said this).

I’ll never forget the embodiment of this principle from the movie Avatar… “I see you” it was about solidarity because of something shared at our very core; regardless of position, rank, race, gender or any other form of difference.

BEAUTY: this ones pretty personal for me, but I truly believe that one of the greatest marks of any leader is the ability to see the value of our common humanity in ALL PEOPLE.

Consider silence…

Don’t go to someone else’s table. In conflict we must resist the urge to talk about it with someone else other than the source! As much as we will desire to seek validation and support from our base, our friends, our typical “go-to” (who by the way you must know at some level this person has absolutely no spine or moral compass if they never offer you a tough pill to swallow, right?), at this time what we need is NOT reinforcement of “unhealth.” And that is what will happen if you stir the pot by spreading bad talk with others who are not directly involved.

BEAUTY: pretty basic here, but essentially its about self-control, patience and discipline these will breed better culture-because YOU led this way.

Consider counsel…

There’s a difference between going around and talking about it and going to 1 strategic person and seeking wisdom about it. But for your clear vision on the issue and for the sake of everyone involved-seek unbiased objective opinion.

BEAUTY: I’ll just quote proverbs 12:15 here: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Consider speed…

If you’re anything like 89% of people who are conflict avoidant then your first reaction will always be, “ah man I don’t want to have to circle back around with that person and have that conversation!” The longer you wait the more anxious you’ll be and worse-if you skip conflict management altogether-you lose, your relationship with that person loses and the shared objectives are certainly lost (with a culture that fails to ever deal!).

BEAUTY: Leaders understand that when they discover pain points in their organization, they will do all things in their power to mitigate them; this requires expediency!

Who is someone you know you need to initiate conversation with right now? Consider the end in mind: what are the share objectives and which objectives are you ready to die over? Most of all, have an honest assessment of yourself, your approach and your delivery… as leaders we can afford nothing less.

What Kind of Leader Exactly? (Trump and Presidential Expectation)

What Kind of Leader Exactly? (Trump and Presidential Expectation)

I’m coming right out with it this time: we are always waiting, wanting, longing for a messiah. That’s our problem. I should say it’s our NATURE and it’s our problem.

It’s our nature because it’s of divine wiring. It’s our problem because we will look anywhere and everywhere to fill that messiah void.

We look to boyfriends and girlfriends to be savior. We look to moms and dads, teachers, coaches, bosses and friends. Shoot, I think we look to Harry Potter to be Messiah. We obviously look to movies for that savior role, you know, that hero who overcomes the deepest darkest defeat only to stand triumphant in the end. It’s the greatest narrative ever told… you know, the story of what happened to Jesus.

And we most definitely look to Presidents to be savior Messiahs.

Since very very early on we people-all people and organized societies-have cried out for formal and informal types of savior types. It started with kings and monarchies right on into today with presidents and prime ministers.

Here is the moment right here (1 Samuel 8):

Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel.“Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance.“Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

It begs the question: why did these people insist on this model, this authority structure, this person to “reign over them?”

I don’t think it’s caused by some sort of leaderless anxiety.

I think it’s birthed from a much deeper place… a place of self-preservation… a place of need and the unmet expectation of, ‘what can this person do for me, provide for me… on my time and in my way?’

And what is the model, the inevitable result of this insatiable need to have a provider, savior, messiah leader? Well it’s always the same… (just change some of the language around and input our modern examples of what follows):

11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army,[a] some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle[b] and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves.

-He’ll keep a standing military and command them wherever he likes (and invest tons to resource it)
-There will be a division of labor and you may not be able to control the type of job you get
-Your women will be subjugated in some way, shape or form
-The wealth will be disproportionately held in the hands of the key “stakeholders,” elites, power-brokers
-You’ll be taxed

Even against this warning the people begged and pleaded (they picketed and they marched):

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

-We will be like others (we’ll fit in)
We will be judged (we will have the magistrate or ruler we desire)
-We will go to war and win wars (power, influence, land, wealth)

Now, tell me HONESTLY if you can’t see what I see when I read all this.

I read this and I remember two things:

  1. “There’s nothing new under the sun” (coincidently Bible again-Ecclesiastes 1:9)
  2. We will always be in want of a king, a president, a leader, BUT we’ll never want him because it’s what’s right. We’ll want him because it’s right for us.

It’s that last part that’s so pivotal. We want a leader insomuch as he/she will enact our laws, push our policy and fulfill our dreams.

We want a leader to bend to the will of our every desire and whim.

But really, at the core, I think what we are asking for is a savior, not a senator.

It was Sunday morning the weekend of the temporary travel ban that President Trump had enacted through executive order. After two days of reading the news I was feeling a very small iota of their burden-the grossly inconvenienced (to use a mild term) immigrants, refugees and travelers.

But you know after an hour or so I came to the conclusion: presidents are not meant to be saviors. Not any one of them at any point in history. Not Abe, Not Washington, not FDR, not Reagan, not Bush, Not Obama, not Trump.

And I came to this conclusion based on 1 single qualifier: the extent to which they are charged with giving, keeping and preserving life. And, the fact is, as a mandate of leadership, this is not the core objective of their office.

But it can be yours.

From bomb raids to travel bans, it appears evident to me that the President’s job is not to fully keep in balance the sacred nature of life or people as collateral damage.

But it can be yours.

You can appreciate, guard, protect and foster life through the way you lead.

And you can ensure that, when you leave, your legacy is not a hall laced with ‘bodies’ (emotionally and psychologically beaten and battered employees, peers and co-workers).

While none of us can be Messiah, we can save a little bit, we can guard a little bit, we can consider others above ourselves even a little bit and in this we are little saviors-called and commissioned to lead like Messiah.

Here’s the type of leader I think we are called to be:

  1. Humble (Above all, considers him or herself to be the lowest common denominator in the room; accurate self-awareness and carries a profound sense that “it’s not about me.”)
  2. Teachable (This will ensure you never stop growing. And a leader who willingly or haphazardly allows for growth to become stagnant is not a leader at all.)
  3. Servant-hearted (His bottom line must be the bottom lines of others-plain and simple; the greatest leaders win when all of those around them win.)
  4. Accountable (Understand that it’s not a power grab it’s a privilege and that privileges should always be guarded by others.)
  5. Multiplying (What’s inside you is worth multiplying; your greatest legacy lives beyond you because those who come after you have been developed and equipped.)

Radical Love is a Lonely Business 

Radical Love is a Lonely Business 

Have you ever felt at odds with the world?

Like you were convinced that your chosen path or idea was the one, but support, encouragement and consensus were all so lacking?

I found this picture for today’s post and thought it was just perfect on a couple different levels for conveying the ethos of my message.

First the little girl’s wonder woman costume… In most all superhero stories there is a moment of isolation for them. They are naturally at odds with the world because they are not natural themselves.

The super hero is a foreigner-not endemic to the neighborhood, community or species. So of course their chosen path, their decided way will forever be at odds with those around them… even whilst saving lives and restoring hope, this isolation remains.

And so the little girl sits alone, almost forgotten, relegated to the curbside enjoyment of her dairy confection. Not that the little warrior princess is concerned for calories yet, she seems as if to say, “screw you guys then, I’ll sit here and eat my ice cream bar.”

My wife and I have found a similar truth to hold steady in our lives, in our own pursuit of putting love in action. Our family, truly pushed by my wife’s vision and hope, has been a part of a foster adoption journey for some years now (if you include the time it took us to get licensed and approved.)

Though we had always talked about adoption when we were early dating and even just after getting married, it was a whole different pivot point after having had a few biological kids already. Somehow, some way we managed to get our first placement two summers ago, and with no guarantees at any point, the placement of Selah became official when she was adopted this last December.

You might say: how could anyone have a bad thing to say about that?

But folks will oppose any manner of good thing. Especially if it is other-worldly.

You see the opposition for us in the decision to take on another baby from the county, for example, carries with it a more subtle variety than what some other love pioneers and revolutionaries might receive. People just kind of pragmatically question and doubt and probe… and they often incredulously ask the direct question “foster-adoption, are you sure?!” While there are a ton of outright haters, I will tell you: the share of cheerleaders, champions and voices of encouragement are few and far between.

You can imagine the responses when we decided to say yes to another fost/adopt placement less than a month from when our previous baby was adopted, bringing the grand total of (potential) Applebee children to 5-what is a SHOCKING and, for some, HORRIFYING number to think about by today’s “standards” (whatever that means).

Honestly once again the responses are just kind of dull. If people-our family or friends-have concerns they are largely keeping silent about it.

It’s not as if we are counting on people holding a parade and constantly praising our heroism, but here is just one more example of how our chosen path is just… different, different in the way it is received and understood… definitely different in the way that it is valued.

About two weeks ago Rylee (my wife) got the call for this baby and then drove out to the hospital and picked him up. That afternoon a 3-day old baby boy was added to our family. We picked up a baby. We just went and drove and got a baby. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

So okay, yes, foster adoption placements like these are probably one of the most hilariously unnatural things around. One moment you got 4 kids and then the next you got 5 and without all the build up of a labor and delivery… and without the pregnancy announcement, without the gender reveal (party, nowadays), without the baby shower, without all the shopping, without all the fanfare, definitely without the maternity/paternity leave.

So I’ll confess, as a result of the overall lack of understanding and value, we are left feeling a little alone, a little isolated… like the little girl and her ice cream bar.

And while it’s not that people try to murder us, imprison us or send us back to krypton, there are days were the lack of support and encouragement remind us of a couple very key principles:

That we are never alone when we are holding fast to God-breathed vision.

That we are never closer to God then when we obediently follow his will.

That we are never living, loving, acting for an audience greater than 1.

That saying yes to giving life, hope and love is a defiant business, but get used to it. For it puts the grandest smile of all on your Father’s face.

If you’ve ever felt this way about any act of love or hope that you’ve taken then rest assured you are in good company. Perhaps the best of company.

Assemble any list you like of pioneers and iconoclasts: the Wilberforce’s, the Bonhoeffer’s, the Rosa Park’s, the Martin Luther’s, the Jesus Christ’s of Nazareth… make the list you want so long as they went against the grain in the name of love.

And I cannot help but leave you with a biblical truth here. Because of course if Christ was going to call you to this work of love he was surely going to outline some words of expectation and encouragement. Here is what Jesus said:

22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way. -Luke 6

So what’s your call to action that you’ve been putting off? What’s the God-sized vision that you’ve been called to that has been minimized by the voices of the haters? Or what’s your list of love pioneers and hope revolutionaries?

Popcorn Scarcity (And a Generation’s Limited Understanding of What it Takes)

Popcorn Scarcity (And a Generation’s  Limited Understanding of What it Takes)

Have you ever felt so convicted, just leveled by something you read or something you heard? Honestly, when was the last time something shocked you as a matter of your core convictions or worldview?

I had that experience 2 weekends ago Saturday night at church. The pastor said something that I’ll never forget and it awoke an understanding in me that, up to this point in my life, I had been almost completely numb to.

You see the preacher (my boss) was giving a message within the series “The Best Of Jesus,” a red letter series, a selection of Jesus’ most famous, yet oft hard to wrap your head around, one-liners.

He was talking about Jesus’ words from Acts 20:35 when, actually, it’s  Paul who sites Jesus’ words: “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I’ll cut to the chase: it was a message on giving and generosity and it was an incredibly stellar one at that. I challenge you to listen/watch the sermon located here.

But that’s not the main point of this post. It’s about one particular thing Tim shared about his story growing up in a single-income house of 8 in Ohio.

He said one line. Just one short statement that I’m hoping and believing will change my life, how I view the world, how I make decisions from this point forward and here’s what he said:

When I was growing up there were two different seasons of time-for 6 weeks-that all we ate was popcorn (and water).

At first it was just knee jerk amazement not having known this element of my boss’s upbringing. But it struck me. And it set off a mental ticking time bomb that I was forced to deal with for the whole weekend.

Here’s what I concluded. People, mostly (but not always) of another time and generation, that have shared experiences like this-experiences of scarcity, like real and sincere austerity-are forever formed and marked by them in a way that others of us will forever misunderstand and thus not be able to account for in our daily lives.

In other words, those of us, like myself, who have never known real want in our lives are at a literal disadvantage that informs how we think, how we decide and ultimately how we live.

Here’s the principle:

For those of us who did naturally inherit a reality of austerity or scarcity, we must do something else to foster the spirit of scarcity, what one might call “a scarcity of heart.”

I can think of several people who fit this mold besides the preacher/boss of mine. There was my dad, who similarly grew up in the Midwest and once had to sleep in the back of the car with his sister.

I can think of my wife’s grandpa who used to bring his newborn baby to the bar where he worked (before becoming a restaurant entrepreneur-and working the business hard to this very day at the age of 80).

I can think of one of my best friend’s wife (not from the generations of the men above). Many times her family growing up knew what it was like to live on the street, shelters, scraping by.

And these scenarios are just ones who have personally touched my life. This is to say nothing of a more international perspective where 2 or 3 billion people worldwide live on less than 2$ a day. So yes, there’s that too.

Though I haven’t lived any of these scenarios myself I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume they are profoundly formative-marking these people for lifetimes to come.

Here is the flip side (of growing up very privileged and never knowing a moment of real need) of things: you have an intrinsic belief that, ‘everything will be okay,’… ‘that we’ll always find a way,’… ‘that it could never really get ‘that bad’…

In short: you have a core belief that includes a general sense of security and plenty.

So here’s my argument: having that outlook-based off of a privileged upbringing-is a limiting factor… a “privilege handicap.”

And NOT because it’s hope-filled, positive or optimistic.

But because of the hunger and edge and grit and seriousness that comes with the reality of scarcity.

Hopefully at this point you should be feeling at least somewhat conflicted.

Rest easy, that’s kind of the point.

But there’s also a challenge: if you suffer from the same (or similar) “privilege handicap” here are some habits we can all build into our lives to at least foster a scarcity of heart:

ONE. Surround yourself as constantly as you can with people who have different stories, upbringings and experiences than you.

This principle is so stinking HUGE! I think this could literally shape and benefit whole SOCIETIES-if more people would only live this out.

It might just spare us from the echo chamber of myopic reinforcing belief! And try this: when you sit down with someone just ask them this question: what was the scariest year of your life?

TWO. Count your blessings.

Because if we do that, though we’ll never completely know or understand the scarcity that others might have lived through or are currently living in now, by contrast, we’ll remain aware of all that we do have. And awareness through fostering gratitude is never bad.

People who start their day this way, people who carve out initial, meditated time of thanks and gratitude ARE THE BEST PEOPLE AROUND. Right? We know it’s true because we know and experience these types of people. We too can be “those types of people.”

THREE. (This should probably be step 1) but the first thing is always: acknowledgment

Each one of us must come to the end of the line of our own privilege and how that impacts SOOOOO many unnoticed, discounted, underrated daily values for us! That is literally the definition of privilege-the things allowed to go by unseen (and hence taken for granted).

FOUR. Develop a scarcity of heart

Find other ways to stay hungry, hustling and full of grit. So what, this was not your story and upbringing, find another way to be serious about the challenges and opportunities that you’re being afforded each and every day.

Taking this for granted is a dishonor to our friends and family who have lived these realities we could never know or fully understand.

But don’t do it just for them. Do it for yourself, your partner, your kids, your legacy. Trust me, the legacy of a person who remained humble and hungry will always inspire, instruct and invest more in the lives of others than the legacy of a person who just idly floats by.

This may be very personal and debatable for some readers so I urge you to empty your cup, humble yourself and consider the benefits of committing yourself to becoming a lifelong learner on this issue today.