The Art of Confrontation

Navigating one of life's constants

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The Art of Confrontation

33rd Edition

Happy Spiritual Monday!

This week, I’ve had a reflection and a few instances of conflict, confrontation and resolution. It’s been such a regular event, that it felt right to share some thoughts on it with you here - not as the authority on the matter, but as someone who is walking with you on the path and has made some observations that may prove helpful if shared.

Confrontation 

This word holds a lot of emotion in humans. At least, that’s what I’ve found. There is a charge in it that sets people’s fear sensors into overdrive if there is any hint that a confrontation is about to occur involving them. Obviously, there are those who feel the need to invoke confrontation all the time with everyone, but we will get to them later.

For most, confrontation is a negatively charged word. And yet, it does not have to be the case, as we can substitute a sense of fear/ negativity for a positive outlook and an opportunity for growth. Let’s say you and I have just gone out to lunch, we’ve had some delicious salad-ish meal, and we are finishing up and heading back into our respective days. As we are saying goodbye you smile at me, and I make a weird face, then apply the well oiled fake smile that many of us are so well rehearsed in and say “bye” and off you go. 

You head back to work, let’s say, and into a meeting. The first person you encounter, your superior, looks at you after the meeting is finished and says, “Did you have salad for lunch? Yo’ve got some left in your teeth right there.” Now you have been confronted with the fact that you’ve been showing off your basil leaves to all your people thinking you had this pearly white smile. Embarrassment, shame, sadness and these kinds of emotions may settle in. You have been confronted with the fact that you’ve missed your hygienic, post lunch cleanse and now everyone knows about it! 

Rewind a bit… Let us say that we are back at the restaurant or wherever, we are saying goodbye and I make that weird face again. Instead of shying away from the matter, I tell you there is basil in your teeth. We laugh, you get it out, and you say thanks. Now you confidently stride back into work with not only the assumption you’re good to go, but the verification of my confrontation to alleviate where you had missed a spot. Again, this is a confrontation, but one that has led to a much more positive outcome.

I use this example often, because it’s easy to grasp and low on the important-o-meter. But what about when we dial up the spicy meter?

Conflict

Often in life, we will find ourselves in a state of conflict with another being. These days, it seems that the entry point into conflict is simpler than ever before, where full on fights break loose if one person says something that another disagrees with. I’d even go to lengths to say the world is experiencing this in an incredibly unhealthy manner right now over a myriad of topics! Hence why some education is necessary.

As the great poet Mike Tyson has recounted that “We live in a time where people can say whatever they want without getting punched in the face.” His poetry wasn’t so much in written pen to paper, as it was fist to face. The point of this is that we have become over scrutinising into legal factors that we are now trying to out smart and out clever each other, all the while demonstrating the old adage that humans would rather be right than happy. Only now we fight harder!

Suffice it to say - there is conflict in the world, and we can work to alleviate this. A very long time ago, one of my teachers shared this with me, and it has stuck (with a few tweaks), so I’ll share it with you.

Confrontation with expectation is manipulation. Confrontation without compassion is abuse. Confrontation with compassion leads to resolution. 

If you lash out at someone over what they may have done, do you do it with compassion? Or do you perhaps do it with some anger, some underlying emotion that you can’t conceal? When do we act simply for action’s sake, vs acting to affect an outcome - physical, psychological or other? In yoga, we talk about the highest form of karma yoga to be a state where we sincerely wish nothing of an outcome for what we do, we simply do it because it is good, and the right thing to do. 

This is similar to compassionate confrontation. Conflicts arise when we may not have this compassion, or when one party acts in a definitive way that is against what the other party wishes and wants. My question is always “Could we live in a world where lawyers and the threat of using them would not be so prevalent, because people would simply act in accordance with the way, the will of nature, and own up to what went wrong on their end, and work to rectify what may have been broken down because it is the right thing to do?” 

This is a hard ask, because it involves so many other dimensions be satisfied - relinquishing any egoic pride or righteousness, empathetic listening and understanding and a genuine sense that we live with for harmony I nature.

This past week, I witnessed men sitting together, open up some topics, share some emotion that led to confrontation and the need have an open minded discussion around it, where it stems from followed by a resolution. No fists, no yelling, no aggression. It was beautiful.

Following this, I spoke with men about how we avoid conflict for fears of what might happen. The old “Might”… always there when you never need it! We noticed how many of us avoid conflict and confrontations, as we aren’t so caring about being right, but what was more interesting was the shared sentiment of “I just don’t want to hurt the other person, so I let it pass…”

This interests me, because it’s another ego presentation that we have the power to cause harm on another by simply sharing our thoughts and our perspectives - we were not talking about physical harm. Emotional intelligence is a big topic of debate lately, and it is a strong practice that puts us at the helm of our life and our hearts. We want to work our best to be stable and stoic in the face of adversity or love, whatever is thrown our way. This is the beautiful practice of equanimity. 

However, if we feel something is not right, we must voice our opinion. A poignant statement from a less violent mind in Jordan Peterson was flashed through my conscience this week; “If you have something to say, then silence is a lie.” How this pertains to our situation here, is that we found a commonality of “not wanting to hurt the other” so we inflict inner stress, strain, pain to ourselves. And now we have the hotbed of inner conflict that drives most of the sentiments and feelings of discomfort, ill health, malaise and many other things humans are going through. This is not healthy for anyone, as we will experience dis-ease, and the world around us will feel the trickle on effects of that dis-ease.

The Art of Confrontation

So I offer you this parting thought, as I’d like to keep it relatively short. Firstly, do you know how you act when in confrontation? Do you have a negative pre-programming toward the word, or could you see it as a growth opportunity? Secondly, do you have any unsettled conflicts bubbling around your mind and heart? This could be external - with others - or internal - where I’d assume we all likely have a few bubbling on! Lastly, could you alter your reality in a way that gives you more peace of mind and heart?

It’s a tall ask to go out right now and rectify, resolve or at least acknowledge any existing conflicts you may be holding onto. Yet, it’s a much bigger burden to hold those within for the remainder of your life - which will likely be shortened simply from the level of baggage which you may be stowing away anyway!

Again, I’m no expert, I’m a student on the path, and I strive to grow every waking moment. But I know that my life flows when I step up and speak my mind with compassion and those I know who live clean heart and mind lives act more consistently in the same way. If you truly come from love and compassion, you do not need to hold worry that your words will hurt anyone else. Love comes through as love, it’s just that many of us haven’t been taught this, and some background programs in our operating system still associate confrontation with anger, fear and the like. 

So much more could be said, but for now, I wish you a beautiful day of growth. When confrontation arises - as it does every day we are alive - take a breath into the heart, and respond from that space. See what happens.

Thanks for reading.

And so it is.

PS. Two birthdays to celebrate: Today is one of my oldest friends, Mike’s Birthday. And on Friday, my main damie Sebastian turned 40! Happy birthday to these two legends, grateful to have you both in my life, even if we haven’t hung out in over 2 years…

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