How Do You Like Your Conflict—Rare or Well Done?

“Well, at least this sort of thing is rare,” a friend remarked after a conflict that went south.

My mind (which, if illustrated, would look a bit like a conspiracy theorist’s wall with pieces of string connecting a thousand unrelated newspaper clippings and excerpts from The Catcher in the Rye) immediately associated “rare” with steak.

I replied, “Unfortunately, conflict is like steak—when it’s rare, it isn’t well done.”

Since then, I’ve been meditating on how true that is.

Have you been in one of those relationships where disagreement is rare, but almost always explosive and damaging? Usually, this is because the conflict has needed to happen for some time. Disagreements, annoyances, and offensives exist, but go unacknowledged, undiscussed, and unresolved. We fail to communicate with honesty and regularity. So, the tension builds. Finally, it explodes. The conflict is rare, not well done.

But the reverse statement also holds. Conflict well done isn’t rare.* When parties address discord with regularity and honesty, in a safe environment, the tension relieves. Healthy relationships regularly acknowledge and discuss their disagreements and offenses. Sometimes they resolve. Other times, gracious tolerance develops. Well done conflict is a regular part of a healthy relationship; it is not rare.

I love steak. I don’t love conflict.

I order my steak rare. I’m resolving again to order my conflict well done.

*Frequency does not equal health. Constant disputes are not rare, but that does not necessarily mean they are well done! 

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