Before I got married, I lived & worked in Washington DC. My first house in the district was a house I shared with 14 other girls. Yes, you read that right: 14.
So many people in one house!
We were all interns for about four to six months at the same organization. It was mostly like summer camp. But it was also a little bit like living in a battle field. We worked together, lived together and spent free time together.
Occasionally, personalities clashed, work ethics conflicted, personal tidiness did not align. Basically, it was fertile ground for conflict and we were constantly working toward peace.
I grew up in southern Louisiana where you are obligated to be nice to everyone.
Or at least pretend like things are fine and you’re fine. It wasn’t that I was actually being taught this idea at home, it is just the general polite undertone of the south.
Four months is a long time to be nice and pretend to be fine in close quarters.
It took about one month before I was ready to move out.
Around this time a good friend reminded me:
“If everything goes smoothly, you’re going to miss the point. Conflict will bring growth.”
And at that point, I realized I had two options.
- Face the conflict and deal with the potential fallout or
- End the suffering and move out.
I determined that for the next 3 months, I would face the conflict. I thought of it like an experiment.
And it ended up being an experiment that changed my life.
As the next few months passed, each time I had to reconcile with someone, I tried to set aside my ego, and listen to myself and to the people around me.
Each time it was a little easier.
And each time I discovered the friendships got a little deeper. The focus of the disagreements became less about “winning” an argument and more about growing the friendship.
These were suddenly friendships worth fighting for.
Not only did I learn about the girls around me and build meaningful friendships, but I discovered thoughts and intuitions and feelings I had no idea were inside of me.
I was becoming a wiser human being.
Even better than that, those girls became some of my closest friends. I still talk with two of the girls from that season every single week.
That is a friendship still worth fighting for.
Now, when conflict arrises with new friends and I’m offended, or I know I have offended them, I make an intentional choice: Do I want this friendship to grow? Or am I ok with it at this level of depth?
If I want it to grow, I know I have to face the conflict and explain my hurt and listen to theirs. This is never easy but one phrase that has helped me goes like this: “I may have misunderstood your intentions, but this hurt me & I’d like to talk about it.”
Friendships have the opportunity deepen and grow with conflict.
I have the opportunity to understand and know myself at a greater depth through conflict.
So do you.