“She is so annoying, Mom!” whined my son from the first floor. He was referring to his sister. “She pretends to be good, and she just kicked me!”
It was a typical occurrence in my house. One small annoyance and I am dragged into it. My involvement in every conflict is important to my children, who are burdened with the weight of almost constant mutual animosity and rivalry.
I freeze like a deer that picks up the scent of a hunter in the woods. Maybe if I sit perfectly still, and keep my breath shallow, they will work it out and leave me alone. Maybe I can sneak away and lock myself in the bathroom. Maybe I can jump out the window. It’s not that far of a drop; the shrubbery below will cushion my fall.
The fight escalates until I feel the need to insert myself; someone is going to get hurt. I don’t want to punish them. I want them to work it out and use one of the many tactics I have taught them to work out conflict: walk away; take deep breaths; lower your voice; compromise; change your perspective.
I find them at the beginning of a brawl. One child is chasing the other around the kitchen. I use my mom voice: STOP IT.
They stop, take a breath, and simultaneously launch into their version of the story. I close my eyes and try not to lose it as they yell over each other to get their words in first.
I wish that it was the last time I had to break up a fight between my two children. I wish I could say that something clicked in them that made them look at each other as allies instead of competitors for everything they have or want. I wish I could say that it ended with me taking them both by the hand and showing them one of my favorite Bible verses. I wish I could say that they STOPPED.
But none of this happened. I dole out consequences, which for this particular infraction was time apart from each other and time spent in their rooms to cool down. When they were little I used to make them sit on the couch and hold hands, which is the ultimate anger neutralizer: giggling always ensued after this particular punishment. The fight was about nothing. They were annoyed and had no better way of dealing with it than by annoying each other more.
I see the same behavior all over the place: between my husband and I, friends arguing over petty things, road rage, work disagreements, differing political views.
There is no specific solution to each of our everyday battles. No one situation has one pretty answer that makes everyone happy. It’s maddening. We all want nice, tidy resolutions, every time. But the world is messy, and it never works out that way. However, there is something that each of us can tap into to make the load lighter when conflict threatens us.
Romans 12:18 says “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible” (NLT). Another translation reads: If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably among all men” (NKJV). And: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (NIV).
I love this. It says do your part. May I add, be friendly. Pray. Accept that we are all different. Stop annoying each other. Stop fighting. Live in peace with each other. Turn the other cheek. Take it easy. See the other person’s perspective. Be cool.
As far as it depends on you.
We all have a choice to live in peace with everyone. We may have disagreements, but we don’t have to call each other names. I may not like your behavior, but I have the choice to walk away and pray, or gently teach a better way.
And if you need a giggle, let's sit on the couch and hold hands. It just might work.