Who among us grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood? I know many of my readers are from the Pittsburgh area, home of Fred Rogers. Even if you didn’t watch his show, which included Chef Brockett and Mr. McFeely, aka Speedy Delivery, most of us knew of him. Mr. Rogers was the creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001, as well as the host of all 895 episodes, the composer of its more than 200 songs, and the puppeteer who imagined 14 characters into being. Mr. Rogers was an icon who changed children’s television.
Related to my source for the Mr. Rogers quote, I have a friend named Ed Blank, who spent 39 years as a drama and movie critic for the Pittsburgh newspapers and television stations. A Vietnam vet, I had lunch with Ed a few weeks ago. Now retired, the stories he told were absolutely enticing and included names like John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Carol Brunette, Burt Reynolds, and many more. I can’t wait to be with Ed again.
During our lunch, Ed told me a story about Fred Rogers, who became a friend of his. He had overheard Fred say to someone, “remember, there is no such thing as a conflict-free life”. Ed later related that story back to Fred, who had no recollection of it. That didn’t mean it didn’t continue to have an impact on Ed, as it did me.
“There is no such thing as a conflict-free life”. With the exception of “God loves you unconditionally”, there may not be a truer statement. Conflict can be national or international, like what’s going on in Afghanistan right now…an absolute and arguably avoidable mess.
Most of the conflict we experience is more personal than global, taking place at home or work, with those we typically interact with most often. Like all other issues in life, the answer is in Scripture or taught by the Church. Related to how we are to handle conflict, check out Matthew 18:15-17. Added to what St. Matthew indicates, I would offer the following points.
There is no such thing as a conflict-free life
Consistent with Mr. Rogers as quoted by Ed, there is no such thing as a conflict-free life. If that’s your expectation, then you’re in for a hard time. Conflict is a part of life. We’d all do ourselves a favor in learning how to handle it.
Although not all conflict is avoidable, much of it is
By establishing ground rules or expectations up front, so as to make sure there are no misunderstandings after the fact, can go a significant way in minimizing or eliminating conflict. Although not always possible or practical, I like to have things in writing.
Conflict doesn’t have to be confrontational
Many people run from conflict because they think it automatically means confrontation. That is not true. Conflict done the right way is healthy. You could argue that you wouldn’t grow or become a better person without conflict.
Attack the problem, not the person
Be empathetic. Nobody cares what you know until they know how much you care. You can’t be self-righteous and on-the-attack and expect a good outcome. Instead, be invested in resolution and agreement as opposed to being right. Two sayings that come to mind:
- Hate the sin, not the sinner
- Love your neighbor as your self
You can say anything to anyone, as long as you say it softly
Tone is so important. An elevated voice (or perception of one) makes people feel like they’re being attacked. No one responds well to that. Speak softly. Smile. Both go a long way.
Communicate often and early
People don’t like to be surprised. Most are creatures of habit. Most people are planners, albeit sometimes only subconsciously. They don’t like to be left in the dark. They much prefer forewarning. Give people as much advance notice as possible and don’t be surprised by last minute things creating conflict.
Identify to the other person your struggle with the situation
You may say something like, “You know, I’m not very comfortable bringing this topic up to you. The last thing I want to do is hurt your feelings or bring conflict between us. The truth is though, you’ve hurt my feelings. I’d love for you to help me talk through this. I’d like to understand what you really meant, in addition to sharing with you how I perceived it. I’m hopeful that we can resolve any issues between us. Are you willing to work through this with me?”
Do the above with those closest to you as well
Oftentimes with family (and very close friends), we fear conflict the most. I think that’s because we fear the risk of loss. We also have expectations and often unspoken agendas for those in our inner circle. As such, with emotion we react instead of respond. The suggestions above all work and arguably are most important for those so important to us.
Thank you, Ed, for the story that prompted this blog. By extension, thank you to Mr. Rogers. Both men have stories steeped in life lessons for us.
As always, please feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, or prayer requests.
God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!
Remember…God made you for GREATNESS!!!