Conflict Creates Growth
by Melinda Stuart-Tilley
Director of Religious Exploration (DRE)
In my elementary school teaching job, part of my duties involve helping the elementary school students to write stories. I try to persuade them that every story needs conflict among the characters in order to make it interesting, and in order for the story to move along. People often think of “conflict” as a bad word, like a fight, or even as something that only happens among different people. However, there are many different kinds of conflict in literature, as in real life, including person vs. society, person vs. nature, and person vs. self. Like stories, people need conflict in order to grow.
Recently, I was talking with a friend who is a certified Master Gardener. She told me of different kinds of orchids, some of which can only live and grow in difficult circumstances. There is one particular orchid that grows in some forests in Florida. This orchid can only germinate after a fire scorches the ground around it; a similar orchid can be found on the west coast. The bulb breaks dormancy and the seed germinates due to the hot temperatures, and the flower flourishes. However, it cannot live without the fire happening first.
What about conflicts in the church? As a congregation, we recently saw the skit during the service where the Committee on the Ministry advised church members to approach conflict directly, member to member, as we have outlined in our Covenant of Right Relations. That same day, in Faith in Action, the children and youth talked about recognizing emotions, developing empathy, and resolving conflicts. These are lessons for every one at every age.
Conflicts are inevitable. Any time we have competing ideas – and as Unitarian Universalists, we always have competing ideas – we will have a form of conflict. If we approach conflict with a spirit of a healthy growth mindset, knowing that we can get through it, it can spur us to greater things. Sometimes, we are not able to move forward without a healthy dose of conflict to make us change and see things differently. May we see conflict in our congregation as a time to cultivate the orchids of our faith, which we would never otherwise see.