Facing Conflict With Love

I might be discovering what this truly means for the first time. It’s easy to mirror love with love, but what is the right way to face conflict? In the past I’ve used a modification of the fight or flight strategy. If someone was instigating conflict or bullying their way into getting something, I would size them up. If I concluded I could “win”, whether in an intellectual or physical conflict, I would engage the bully, force them to submit or back off, and then encourage them to resolve the issue in a civil and mutually beneficial way. Whenever I could, I would try to fight for people who couldn’t defend themselves.

Alternately, if I concluded that I couldn’t “win”, I avoided the conflict to avoid harming myself. If I “lost”, I would just be boosting the bullies ego and confidence and I wouldn’t be helping the victim at all. I always had positive intentions, even when I was fighting, but I didn’t know how to confront a bully in any other way.

I rarely chose to lower my guard because I was affraid of being taken advantage of. In some extreme turbulent environments, like a prison or war zone, the weak become stepping stones for the strong. You don’t want to come across as a weak target becaue you will be victimaized regardless of the environment. When kids play dodgeball, they often pick on the little guy. In sports, offensive teams are always looking for the weakest defensive link. In business, you want to make sure your ideas are taken seriously. To be treated fairly, people need to respect you. I didn’t know how to gain respect without demonstrating my willingness to fight.

Through Vipassana I’m discovering the strength and boundaries of pure love. I’m learning how to approach a hostile person or situation with love and compassion while guarding myself from their personal agitations. I’m figuring out how to separate myself from a persons negative words and actions by realizing that this person is full of their own misery. I’m learning that I could face this negative situation head on with love and compassion without putting myself in harms way. As I discover the nature of pure love, I’m discovering how strong it is. Kindness can be taken advantage of, but love is strong.

I’m not expressing that I’m there. I don’t feel comfortable confronting strong negativity with love, but I’m finding that pure love, as it grows stronger within me through meditation, will allow me to face these issues head on in a mutually beneficial way. I plan to practice by facing mild conflicts with love, and hopefully in time I’ll be able to face major conflicts with pure love. This mental shift is a major adjustment in my life. I’m excited by its potential. Time to go meditate.

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About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

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