Conflict and Confrontation

Growing up I noticed tension in our household, but I knew that it wasn’t okay to say anything. The Phelps motto, when it comes to conflict, is don’t say anything and never apologize. Through my teen years I held tight to this belief, but it didn’t serve me well. Patrick and I married and joined a church that was very legalistic and confrontational. They believed that it was their right as a christian to rebuke you in the name of Jesus. If they saw “sin” or there was an issue of any sort, it was pointed out to you sometimes in front of other people and you were made to feel ashamed. Even with all of that practice, I still was terrible at confrontation and passive aggressive to boot. I sent some awesome emails to people since writing is easier for me which caused a lot of problems, hurt feelings and ultimately was brushed off as me just being a bitch or having misplaced anger. Both partly true.

Meeting Jason and having someone in my life who didn’t get offended by my frankness caused me to pause and reflect. We had a lot of long conversations that were mostly silent patience as we learned to navigate feelings and forgiveness in the early days. I learned the value of vulnerability and to wait until I wasn’t angry to breach a subject that needed mending. That man has taught me so much simply by loving me as I am and allowing me to figure things out myself rather than criticizing me.

One thing has stayed the same which is my ability to see when something is fundamentally wrong or broken and needs attention. I would still rather talk about something than ignore it. Ignoring it makes it worse. Most people don’t see it that way. In my experience, even when confrontation turned into a fight with hurt feelings, good came of it. I believe the road to peace is paved with confrontation.

Fast forward to my time in Franklin. In the few years that we’ve been here, I’ve learned that people operate in denial and sometimes there is just absolutely nothing you can do about it. They live there, cozy and comfy in their lies to themselves and each other and if you try to uncover or bring to light any of these lies, they really don’t appreciate it. Some people enjoy being a victim. I’m still occasionally expected to pretend, but now I refuse. It drives me absolutely batty. I don’t pretend well. I can try, but I’m really bad at it. It comes out in my expressions and body language and I’m not interested in learning how to get better at pretending everything is fine when it clearly isn’t.

I’ve since learned the art of moderation, boundaries and tolerance. In short, I learned to be completely happy with myself, not needing everyone to like me and giving people space while they deal with their shit. Even though I see the problem and can offer them the solution, people need time, just like I did, to see things for themselves. We all grow at our own pace– if at all. Perhaps all those years ago I was projecting and trying to change things in other people because I wasn’t yet ready to deal with my own problems. That’s part of living in society, I guess. I love a quote I heard recently, “you don’t see thing how they are, you see things how you are”. I’ve also learned the art of gentle honesty with someone. The wording of sharing my observations, feelings and perspective doesn’t have to be harsh unless I choose it to be and sometimes I do.

The last thing I’m still learning is letting go. Not everyone wants to have hard conversations. Not everyone wants reconciliation. I’ll wait. What I won’t do is subject myself to hatred forever. What I won’t do is apologize repeatedly for being me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, apparently, and that’s okay.

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