Some of the common things people say they love are puppies, kittens, beaches, and comfort food. But those things pale in comparison to something we all love even more but would never admit:
Contradictions and conflict.
It's human nature to put our attention on contradictions and conflict of all kinds. At least, other peoples’ contradictions and conflict:
The preacher was caught stealing from his congregation. The squeaky-clean politician who cheated on his wife with an intern. The mother who drowned her children in a bathtub.
We’re shocked and appalled at contradictions like these, yet we can't seem to get enough of these stories. The media companies know it, too: Contradictions get clicks and ratings. Which in turn, get ad revenue.
They formulate and feed us contradictions one after another as if they’re coming down an assembly line. But while we can’t seem to get enough of the conflict and contradictions we see in other people…
We Are OBSESSED…
…with getting RID of the ones we discover inside ourselves. They plague us.
We want to lose weight but can't resist that chocolate cake in the fridge. We want to be better parents, but catch ourselves ignoring or even screaming at our children. We want to be productive and get work done — but find ourselves yet again on the “weird” part of YouTube at 1 in the morning, having accomplished nothing.
We think of ourselves as honest people, but then we’re dismayed when friends question our ethics — and we realize they have a valid point.
What is the natural human response to uncovering our own inner conflicts?
Usually, we become completely paralyzed.
What am I to do? What kind of person am I?
When we encounter an inner conflict within ourselves, it’s almost like we can’t move forward until we eliminate it.
It STOPS All
Then, the only way we can get on with our lives is to do one of two things:
- Come up with an answer that makes us feel we have resolved the conflict (whether we really have or not), or…
- Forget about the conflict and pretend it never existed in the first place.
For most people, these are their only means of moving forward. From the moment they become aware of an inner conflict, their life stops and this battle begins. But that’s only because most people hold the false belief that life — and most importantly, themselves — cannot exist with conflict.
Of course, they’re wrong.
Conflict is everywhere. We’re ALL full of conflict. And we’re all kidding ourselves about it! Strange that we pretend we can’t have any, isn’t it? And since the elimination of one conflict or contradiction will always simply clear the way for the next one to come up, this inner battle will never really end.
So how do you solve this?
First of all — recognize it’s happening.
Second of all — stop making “the elimination of conflict and contradiction” a goal in your life.
Yep, it’s that simple! Just learn to exist with conflict and contradiction present. It's actually not so bad!
Conflict and contradiction will not stop existing just because you ignore them. Nothing really changes. Except now, your attention is on them and you’ve decided you're okay with it. And once you can do that, you can move onto the third step that lets you level-up your WHOLE life:
You recognize the power that living with conflict and contradiction actually holds — and exercise the patience and restraint necessary to harness this power. Because that’s usually the only time you can actually address big problems in your life.
To explain how this is done, let’s…
Take A Lesson
From Mel Gibson:
At the beginning of the movie The Patriot, Mel Gibson’s character Benjamin Martin finds himself squarely in the middle of one of those inner conflicts. How he deals with it is important to take note of if you wish to use these conflicts to your advantage.
If you haven’t seen it, the movie takes place during America’s Revolutionary War. And Mel Gibson's character is torn between honoring his own principles — those of pacifism — and those of defending his country against the redcoats.
At first, his character handles the conflict well enough, until his unwillingness to serve his country leads to some devastating consequences:
After a battle breaks out near his home, his principles of pacifism lead him to take in wounded soldiers from both sides of the war, nursing them back to health. But the next morning, when a British lieutenant comes to collect the redcoat soldiers, the lieutenant is unforgiving towards Mel Gibson’s compassion.
Since Mel Gibson's son was also at home fighting (against his father’s wishes) for the continental army, the redcoat lieutenant takes his son as a prisoner to be hanged. Then, orders his troops to set fire to Mel Gibson's home.
If that's not bad enough, Mel Gibson’s younger son runs out to try and save his brother, and the British lieutenant shoots and kills him.
Mel Gibson’s character is now enraged. He catches up with the redcoat troops down the road. When they’re least suspecting it and in a blind rage, he murders all of them to rescue his older son.
All of this happens in the first 30 minutes of the two-hour-thirty-minute movie. Mel Gibson’s character is now distraught as he considers what part his own actions have already played — and may continue to play — in the misery that unfolds around him.
Does he continue to honor his own inner values? Or does he serve the “higher good” of his nation?
As he sits in agony, contemplating this question, a loving relative tries to help him resolve his inner conflict. She tells him:
“You have done nothing for which you should be ashamed”
Now this person truly cares for Mel Gibson’s character. She's troubled by seeing him in so much pain. She has his best interests at heart and is doing her best to help him…
But let’s pause the scene for a minute — and talk about something. Think of how most of us might react to her kind, well-intentioned words: In an effort to resolve our own inner conflict, we might be tempted to accept and embrace what she said.
After all, that would allow us to stop feeling so bad. And it would help us rationalize the conflict away. But here’s the problem:
With that one response — we would have given away all our power.
If Mel Gibson’s character had responded the way most people do, the movie would have been over at the very beginning. There would have been no more story to tell. Because he wouldn’t have had any motivation to do anything else. And it wouldn’t have been much of a movie, either.
Because if he accepted his relative’s compassionate words, he would have completely missed his…
Become A Hero
But, what if Mel Gibson chose the other common human response to inner conflict — and distracted himself from it?
Maybe he would have agreed with her, and then asked her to go for a walk or have a bite to eat to take his mind off it and pretend it wasn’t there. That would get his mind off his troubles for sure!
But again, it would also destroy his opportunity to become a hero.
Instead, Mel Gibson’s character chose the THIRD option. The rare one very few people ever choose — but the one that is most rewarding and makes you a hero. He doesn’t attempt to resolve his inner conflict OR distract himself from it.
Instead he embraces it, and faces it head-on.
When his relative tells him, “You have done nothing for which you should be ashamed”… He responds: “I have done nothing. And for that, I am ashamed.” And it is right at that moment that his hero’s journey begins, making the rest of the movie an epic masterpiece.
His response does not resolve his inner conflict. It doesn’t take his mind off of it, either. He’s sitting with the conflict. He’s okay with the fact that the conflict exists. And by doing that, he turns the conflict into…
An Inner Source Of Energy
Which propels him to ACT!
Is he still ashamed of his previous actions? Yes.
Is he still aware of them? Of course.
But they no longer CRIPPLE him. Instead, they EMPOWER him! THAT is the reason he goes on to become a hero.
You can do the same with your own conflicts. You see, the very situations we seek to resolve often contain the keys to the power we seek… IF we can leave them be — and sit with the conflict — long enough for their lessons to appear.
Clearly there are some contradictions and conflicts in life that have to be handled urgently, so we can ensure the safety of ourselves or others.
But not all contradictions you might encounter are emergencies. And for those that aren’t — if you can learn to entertain them and continue on in your life in spite of those contradictions, even living side-by-side with them, totally A-OK that a contradiction exists — then that’s when they can become some of the greatest sources of power and wisdom you will ever know.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Practice the mindset of being comfortable with conflict — inner and outer — daily. You will be shocked at how it puts you ahead of the vast majority of people when it comes to leadership, goal achievement, and making things HAPPEN in your life.
In fact, I don't know a self-made millionaire who hasn’t developed the ability to be comfortable with conflict.
Try it for yourself, and watch your life change.