We don’t see eye to eye, and that’s why I need you: the benefits of conflict in relationships

I’m convinced that the exact moment Bill and I fell in love was right in the middle of a heated theological discussion.

He loved that the girl in front of him had a brain and a voice, neither of which she was afraid to use. She loved the fact that the boy in front of her didn’t pretend or flatter, but was honest and passionate about the things that mattered.

Ever since that first altercation, at the foundation of our relationship there has been a deep reciprocity and understanding that we respect one another enough to be able to disagree.

And we have learned a lot from each another as a result.

One of the things I have learned that it is ok- on occasion – to be strong and assertive, and to throw caution to the wind when considering the way forward. And he has learned – also on occasion – to be influenced by others’ opinions and be cautious about making decisions.

In our case, it’s most definitely iron sharpening iron, though sometimes the moments of friction can smart a little more than either of us would like.

Young love 💕 (me at 18, and Bill at 21)

The truth is, though, that all of us grow through the right kind of conflict. Not through the bullying, domineering, manipulating or controlling kind – but in the midst of the loving, reciprocal and transparent kind.

I remember my closest childhood friend saying something I’ve never forgotten, after we had a disagreement at age 13 – ‘You just always have to prove your point, don’t you? Whatever the cost.’ I didn’t like this at the time, I can assure you. But she was right. And her summation has operated as a kind of Jimminy Cricket check and balance ever since.

Many years later, another friend rubbed salt in just the right place when I was sharing how hurt I was as a result of someone else’s thoughtlessness. She said, ‘you’re annoyed you haven’t got all your ducks in a row, aren’t you?’

Tough, but also fair.

In that situation, things weren’t turning out how I thought they should, so I was all in a flap about it. I learned from that conversation that an adjustment of my expectations of other people was needed.

Why does speaking truth and disagreement matter so much in our relationships? Why does Proverbs 27:6 tell us that ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend?’

Because people who really love you tell you the truth. They don’t butter you up, fan your ego, or fuel your delusions. They encourage you when you need it, but they warn you when your attitudes, words and actions warrant it. They do it because they want the best for you.

None of us are perfect. All of us need accountability. All of us need to be challenged now and then.

This is why, if you occupy any kind of leadership position, it’s so important not to surround yourself with people who will always agree with you. Instead, make a decision to welcome diversity and embrace different opinions. In the process, you’ll generate new ideas. You’ll understand more about yourself. You’ll learn to communicate more effectively and to appreciate different perspectives on life.

So when was the last time a friend or team member challenged you on something you did or said?

I remember one time when someone came to see me privately and lovingly shared their concerns about how I’d handled something in a meeting. I can honestly say that in that moment they won my eternal respect. They loved me enough to be candid, concerned and respectful, all at the same time. To me, that is worth its weight in gold.

People who don’t really love you talk about you behind your back. People who really care confront you to your face. They tell you when you aren’t seeing eye to eye, and that’s why you need them. You need their insight. You need their perspective. You need to see their heart for your heart. You need them to grow.

But if it’s been a long time or forever since you felt the jag of healthy disagreement or confrontation, it may just be that you’re surrounding yourself with the wrong people.

Could it be that you are now thinking of a moment when you walked away from someone who challenged, cautioned or corrected you with wholly loving intentions- just because what they said offended you? Perhaps you need to revisit that moment with a different perspective and be willing to go back and make things right if necessary.

Im thankful for the people I don’t always see eye to eye with, but who walk with me by the hand, share their heart with me, and are walking in the same direction.

H x

Published by Hilary

Mum of two girls 👩‍👧‍👧 positive inspiration 💡 parenting 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 health 🏃‍♀️ life 💓 faith 📖

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