Sunday, April 23, 2006

I do not like fighting.

I used to avoid fights at all cost. I would get upset and hold it in until I felt sick, choking on bitterness.

I still do this.

Only, now, I avoid fights when I'm upset about something or someone I ultimately don't care about a whole lot.

It seems a bit backwards, I suppose. But think about it: someone you don't care about probably isn't going to be in your life very much. Either you don't spend too much time with them already, or the time you do spend with them now is likely to end in the near future. In these cases, what's the point of causing needless friction in the short term?

On the other hand, there are those that you want in your life because you genuinely think they're worth it. You want to spend more time with them, but there's just this little (or big) niggly thing that eats at you.

If I don't address it, it will likely go on to bug me forever. Even worse, it will fester as I attempt to cover it up. And suddenly this relationship that you enjoy in the grand scheme of things, this person you depend on, becomes gangrenous and either you chop the whole arm off, so to speak, or die a slow, agonizing death of sepsis.

I don't want to live unhappily. I don't want to ignore an infection until it becomes unmanageable and the only way to fix it is to physically remove it.

So I've learned that it's better to fight sometimes.

But it doesn't make it easy. And I certainly wouldn't claim that I'm good at it. But if it does turn out to be unfixable, isn't it better to know sooner rather than later?

There is only one risk that makes me want to avoid a confrontation with someone I care about.

It's not that I might be wrong. I don't like being wrong, but it's a pretty acceptable outcome. At least I learn something, even if it is that I need to shut up or be more trusting.

It's not that someone will be so angry, they will stop liking me. While it sometimes delays the argument, if it bothers me enough I remember what they taught me in grade school: if they don't like me, then they weren't worth it. I know: it's not really as simple as all that. These are people with whom I have a very strong relationship. Usually, the history we have is enough to get us through even if they may be upset with me in the short term. I may have to be careful to make sure they understand that I still like THEM, but strong relationships bounce back.

At least, this is what I have learned over the past couple of years.

No, the biggest risk is to the other person: that I made them feel bad about themselves. And why is this the worst? Because I know the hurt I feel when someone I care about says, "I don't like this about you" or "I think your way is wrong." Because it feels like they're saying, "You should be more" or "You should know better." I know how discouraging that feels.

But I also know that sometimes I need to know when I'm not living up to the expectations of the people I respect. I know that I am the person I am today because other people with a strong sense of morality and what is valuable in this world taught me the difference between what's easy and what's right.

Would I have chosen to make the changes to myself that I have thus far if no one had ever challenged my position on a belief, or told me that my action was wrong?

It has taken me a long time to be able to fight. But I am, myself, a better person because of the conflicts that I've had. And while I struggle to figure out the best time to impart my views and the best framing for them and how to minimize the impact of my emotions on them, I realize that I would never get better at it if I didn't practice.

I hope that the people I love are patient with my attempts.

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