My sister sent me a little present last night around 12:38 a.m. It was an email that started like this:

Lisa-

I just have a few things I need to say that have been on my mind…

Ugh.

I knew it as coming; things had been far too quiet the past few days.

I’ll bet most of us can recall a time when we were under personal attack. It happens all the time. It’s part of life, whether on a grand, national scale, or a private bickering between two people. How do we respond?

I used to go into survival mode, cower in a corner, cover my head, and fire off a bullet or two without taking time to aim. I used to run away, cry to my Mommy or to anyone else who would listen to my sad story, in hopes that I could convince them to be on my team.

Later, I would find my voice, and stand up to the attacker, and resolutely defend my views point by point, until both of us were worn out from being so smart. The issues became confused, and the goal seemed to shift from finding a solution, to convincing the other to see things my way. I think sometimes my opponent gave in from sheer exhaustion. The need to be right was my worst enemy.

It’s only recently that I have discovered yet another way to deal with conflict. I listen. I sift through the piles of muck to determine if there is any truth in it, as I see it. I apologize if I think I need to. Then I stand up, brush my shoulders off, and walk away.

I don’t need to be right. Sometimes I don’t even need to be heard; sometimes it’s wasted breath.

My response to my sister:

Wendy,

I am tired of getting emails from you telling me what you think is wrong with me.

I’m sorry if things I’ve said have hurt you, both when we were kids and recently, too.

My relationships with others are between them and myself, and frankly, are none of your business. If there are things in our past (between you and me directly) that need to be healed, then I am willing to listen and look at my part.

I’m sorry that you have such a negative opinion of me, but you are certainly entitled to think what you think, as am I.

Lisa

Victory belongs to my serenity. I’m not going to sacrifice her anymore for the adrenalin rush of a heated argument.

Does this mean I’m a big girl now? Or maybe there’s an even better way to do it that I have yet to discover…

I’m a little apprehensive to put down my weapons. I’m afraid the gunshots will start coming – aimed directly at my back if I walk away, and I feel vulnerable. And it’s also a little sad to think about potentially ending some relationships which have been held together only by the battles over the years. If the fighting stops, what is left?

I realize how drastically my life has changed in the last 3 years. I’ve said goodbye to more relationships than I care to acknowledge, which at first, left me feeling lonely and responsible of purposefully alienating myself. Perhaps the latter is true, but I’d rather have just a few good friends than dozens of toxic ones.

3 Comments on “Brush Your Shoulders Off

  1. Actually, that all sounded incredibly healthy. And I always have more faith in people who have just a few good friends…

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  2. Thank you, WDKY and Keith. Even if I’m not supposed to care what others think of me, it feels great to be validated by people I respect.This has been one of the hardest behaviors for me to change. I always had to get the last word and be right. It kills me to leave things “unresolved,” even though I understand it cannot be resolved at all, without one of us compromising our beliefs.I always thought that unresolved conflicts automatically meant the end of a relationship, although I guess it doesn’t always have to be that way. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, so I’m changing my behavior, which has already led to a better result for me – I’m not still stewing, even if I know my sister is probably composing the next email as I write this. 🙂Lisa

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