We are told by the world that if we work hard enough we can achieve perfect circumstances and relationships; that we should strive for paradise on earth. The direct and incidental messages we receive from the media, advertisements and social media are that utopia is attainable in this life. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve and the advent of original sin, however, perfect happiness and satisfaction can not be achieved on earth. Heaven only exists in the hereafter. While living at peace with everyone is our goal, we are imperfect human beings who do not always agree and exist in perfect harmony. When we encounter hardships and difficulties and things don’t go our way, especially in friendships and relationships, instead of getting angry and complaining, we can take a novel approach and be thankful for the opportunity to grow in perseverance, humility, and patience while we strive to achieve peace and reconciliation in the situation.
As children evolve into teenagers, I have discovered, they develop new ideas, opinions, and attitudes that can conflict with that of their parents’. I have always heard from other parents about the difficulties in the realm of parenting teenagers, but as our oldest turns 15, I have recently experienced it myself. My initial reaction was to respond with anger and outrage. After prayer and reflection, I have begun to observe my own shortcomings that contribute to the disunity that we at times experience. Conflict with my teen is allowing some of my own faults to surface, driving me to take a better look at myself so that I can correct them.
An Antidote to Pride
Clashes with teenagers are only one example of facing opposition from others that can humble us and help us to better understand our faults. Any disagreement or personality conflict, in the home, among family members and friends, or in the workplace, if handled prayerfully and with a healthy dose of love and forgiveness, can be transformed into a learning experience and an opportunity to grow spiritually. When we face opposition from others or are disliked or rejected, especially if we are misunderstood or judged falsely, we can benefit from the circumstance. As The Imitation of Christ teaches: “It is good for us to run into opposition and to have others think badly of us, even when our intentions are good. For these things help us to be humble and rid us of pride. Then we seek God more earnestly, who alone knows our inmost self, when outwardly we are ignored and discredited by others.” (Imitation of Christ, Ch. 12) Although painful, these circumstances can provide a lesson and help us attain humility.
Scriptural Wisdom about Conflict
The Beatitudes remind us that a reward awaits us in heaven when we face these kinds of difficulties.”Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt 5:10-12) The Proverbs are another rich source of inspiration. They are pithy tidbits of wisdom and instruction which are valuable to understand ourselves, our weaknesses, and the paths we should walk. Proverbs 27:17 is perfectly applicable for the topic of conflict with others: “Iron is sharpened by iron. One person sharpens another.” With our imperfections and faults, we rub against others, often causing disagreements and friction. God uses these faults and conflicts to teach us lessons about ourselves and others; and from the difficulties we encounter, we learn how to live in harmony with others. We have a choice of whether to react defensively and angrily or to take a step back, calmly examine our part in the conflict, admit our faults, and aspire to change and improve our behavior. By doing the latter, we are more likely to resolve the conflict peaceably.
The Grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
When facing conflict, an examination of conscience is advantageous in pinpointing our faults so we can take ownership over them, ask forgiveness, and attempt to correct them in the future. The Sacrament of Reconciliation brings forgiveness of our sins and faults. Along with Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation is one of the Sacraments of Healing. When we confess our sins to a priest, we receive absolution and are reconciled to the Church and to one another. It is also a sacrament of conversion, assisting us with transforming and becoming more Christlike. It is one of the most beneficial ways to handle the conflicts that arise with others and to receive grace to convert and grow in our actions and relationships.
Striving for Peace
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. (Rom 12:17-18) The saints were experts at being at peace with those who opposed them. They encourage us to love one another and especially those who we find difficult to love. St. Teresa of Calcutta advised us, “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his tranquil spirit, reminds us that peace begins within. “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” Jesus himself repeatedly exhorted us to strive for peace. “Peace I leave with you, my own peace I give you; a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). Although conflicts will inevitably arise in life, if we are seeking Christ with a humble and contrite heart and are honestly attempting to acknowledge our faults and to allow him to change us, we can learn and grow from difficulties and disagreements with others.
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