By: Abigail Kilgore
I am the ideal person. I don’t have any insecurities. I don’t struggle with anything. I meet all my goals. I’m always right. I’m always kind to others; I never act out frustration and I’m never selfish. You know, I’m just the ideal person.
Ooooookay, enough of that blasphemy. None of that first paragraph is even remotely true. I do have insecurities and struggles. I have the hardest time even setting goals because a large part of me is still so uncertain about where I want my life to go. I have quite a short fuse and put myself first far too often.
But what if the first paragraph is how I identified myself? Sure, the view through rose-colored glasses is nice, but it’s also skewed. If I chose to see only my strengths and allowed my flaws to sink quietly down into my subconscious – refusing to learn and grow from the lot of them – I would live a lie. I would be an abbreviation of myself, shallow and untested.
And a life without conflict within you is impossible. Unless you live in total isolation, you will encounter a myriad of different people with vastly different personalities from yours. Some you will easily jive with, and others…not so much. Some will challenge you. Some will encourage you. Some will irritate you. Some will hurt you. Some will love you in times you don’t deserve it. Whether it is an enjoyable encounter or not, other people will always clash with you at some point in a relationship.
And when that clash happens, the relationship is over.
Just kidding. The clash is where the magic happens! The people in my life that I am closest to are always the people I can fight the hardest with. Outside of my family, I’m pretty quiet. I think “sweet” is a word people who know me from a distance would use. But my family and closest friends know I’m easily annoyed, competitive to a fault, quick to speak and slow to think. Last summer, while working at a camp and playing a lively round of some sort of made-up camp game, I might have used the word “loser” to describe some of the opposing team…bad, I know. Before you kind of hate me, it was said lightheartedly and my intention was far from trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. But Atlee saw the root of the issue and took action. Stopping me, she explained how that was not okay even as a joke.
In the moment, I was just annoyed. Why couldn’t she just get the joke? Why take it so seriously? Ugh don’t be so sensitive! But Atlee saw the deeper problem. She saw that I had let a game make me think it was okay to demean someone. She saw that I was trying to make much of myself and my team not by playing well, but by tearing others down. And because Atlee loves me, because she cares about my character and how I influence the world around me, she put a stop to it. She sobered my pride and told me I was wrong. She wasn’t just being reactive to smack talk or just trying to get even. If she hadn’t stepped in, she would have done me a disservice as a friend.
This is why it is paramount that we don’t surround ourselves with doting yes-men. We don’t need our egos pumped up with skewed ideas of who we are. Character founded on that is weak and quickly fading. The idealistic misrepresentation caused by silent so-called friends too scared to point us to truth promotes you to be okay with a lesser version of who you are supposed to be.
No one making a sword would use cotton to sharpen the blade. No one who wants to be great surrounds themselves with people who let them sit in their flaws without learning a thing.
I have been incredibly blessed to have friends who are always questioning of me. They don’t let my thoughts, motives, and actions go unchecked. And I’m better for it. I walk closer towards the person I was created to be when my friends and family call me out. And they allow me to return the favor.
It’s not comfortable and it’s far from easy. But I believe this kind of friendship is a tension we were meant to live in. The clash stings for a moment. I’m confronted with my weaknesses, insecurities, struggles and mistakes. But in the end, I can’t think of a kinder conflict.