Conflict & Your Life Story

I have always thought of conflict as an unsavory, unfortunate fact of life. I dread conflict because it means I'm in a battle I may or may not win.  I like winning.  I dislike losing. I don't even like admitting to such competitiveness;  it sounds spoiled.  Much of the time my desire to win IS spoiled, but not always.

But I can view conflict in a different way that is less inherently negative.  In fact, it makes some conflict seem like a kind of "boot camp" trainer preparing me for something great.  

"Conflict is just a challenge you overcome to live a great story..." I first heard that line from Donald Miller and it stuck.

 I love that sentence because it makes me think differently about conflict.  
Conflict is the catalyst to creating a great story. 
Conflict is something to be welcomed, because in overcoming conflict, you achieve something important.

Think about all of the movies you love.  Isn't conflict at the center of the narrative?  In Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne had to overcome a wrongful prison sentence to gain a new life.  Batman had to overcome the Joker's evil schemes to save Gotham City.  Sally had to overcome her neuroses to love Harry.  Mr. Darcy had to battle both Pride & Prejudice to win Lizzy Bennet.  Woody and his Toy Story 3 friends had to defeat Lotso, the scary Care Bear, to get home (I never trusted Care Bears either).  In all of these cases,  the mere existence of conflict is not what's important, but rather the process of overcoming the conflict is what makes the story meaningful.

What a powerful thought.  There can and should be meaning in life's conflicts.

I've been spending a good bit of time thinking about how I deal with conflict.  I think about what I want my story to be.  I wonder if the challenges I face are part of a meaningful narrative. If I evaluate the challenges that cross my desk or the worries I encounter in my daily routine, I have to admit that my track record is decidedly mixed.  No great stories are written about someone overcoming obstacles to get a new iPhone or to find a way to upgrade their wardrobe.  So why do I put so much attention there? Little bitty conflicts breed little bitty storylines.

And so I ask myself: Are my ambitions big enough, clear enough, and compelling enough to make a great story?  What about you? Are you asking yourself any of these questions:

What is the story you want your life to tell?  At home? In your community? With God?

At your retirement party, what story do you want your career to tell?

What conflict/challenge which is building that story are you currently fighting ?


What will it take for you to see --or even welcome--your conflicts as opportunities for growth?

If writers spend so much time crafting a narrative for characters we love watching, isn't it worth investing time in developing our own life's storyline?  Your life's story may never win an Oscar, but for those who have front row seats, make it one that cause them to walk away inspired.

...and, "Action!"