Tender-Hearted and Hard-Hearted We Are

By Kevin Nichols. Kevin, 47, is a music blogger, freelance writer and bibliophile. He lives in Bowling Green, USA. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

This high school friend of mine, who served in the Gulf and Afghanistan wars told me in our mid-30s, “I love conflict.” Our friendship and beer times together ended a couple of years after. He would repeatedly mention that statement without incitement. We are now in our late 40s and saw each other at a family gathering. His haggard appearance let me know that conflict did not love him that much. Anyone that says they like or are willing to embrace conflict is not being truthful. No one likes to go through conflicts. The purpose of conflict is not realized until its journey is completed. The conflicts we survive prepare us for the conflicts we will endure.

In the Christian religion, the bible says in 1 Peter 4:12, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you (NLT).” The part that stands out is “don’t be surprised.” We know that conflicts are coming, however, what most of us try to do is keep them from happening. Conflicts are life’s bullies. They are our fears, weaknesses, and ultimately what we have to face at some point in our lives. When you try to run from or avoid conflict, you avoid the root of its purpose. Eventually, even if it is years later, those same roots of fear, weakness, or avoidance will smolder. How we react to conflict comes from how we dealt with previous conflicts.

Author C. JoyBell C. wrote, ‘Choose your battles wisely.’ In every aspect of our school, university, and work-life there will be bullies. They are people who are in some form of rank, position, or tenure are above us. Most of this is just an individualist portrayal that is reinforced within the confines of these social interactions. As stated, these can be examples of the symbolic interaction theory. The timid personalities are sought out by the dominant ones to impose their overbearing will.

In time, conflict will reveal the nature of the person being afflicted. Conflict will essentially trigger the fight-or-flight response, also known as the acute stress response from physiologist Walter Cannon’s theory. We have either experienced this ourselves or through other people. Eventually, if someone (conflict) pushes us hard and long enough, that fighting spirit will come out. Even the timorous personalities can discover during conflict, a fighting (survival) will or spirit within themselves. One of my retired feisty aunts (a dominant personality) told me recently, “When dealing with people, you get tired, and then you get TIRED.”

People will tell you, sometimes even strangers, what difficulties they are going through. Many times it seems that if you do not have a dominant personality, people feel more comfortable confiding in you. I have learned this approaching middle age, people can relate to conflict if it is something they have personally experienced. When I was in my 20s and 30s, when people would mention divorce, physical ailments, loss of loved ones, or child stories I could not comprehend their disheartenment. The reason being, I did not know what to say about something I did not deeply experience on my own. Back then, I felt inadequate, so I could not offer any type of relatable empathy.

My mom “Ma” and best friend passed away in 2018. With just single (never been married, no children) me, my dad, and my single (same as me) spiritual brother left, I do not have my own family. The waves of conflict and pain did not surface from past rancor from my mother. The bile came from years of fear, stoic denial, physical, and verbal abuse that were buried secrets within our nuclear family. After reluctantly attending GriefShare groups at my dad’s church and telling relatives (who could relate with my conflict and confided in me) my life trauma, now I inherently grasp the ability to talk to others about disheartenment. We have a shared trauma with people that know and have experienced the kinds of pain we lived through.

Do not feel dishonored by having a good, honest, and exposed cry. Conflict in life is not expressed like it is in movies, TV, or social media. Tears are not gentle and pretty. Noses pour out with mucus. You scream, you wail, and feel downright powerless. Five crying emojis or a photo image cannot imitate it.

We all should have designated places that we go to for a cry crisis. If you are at work, there should be a hiding place inside or outside the building. If you can leave during breaks, go to a place of solitude. If you share accommodations with a partner, have it all mapped out so that they know you are in a life storm. Even if you are accustomed to crying together, there must be that isolated place for you.

According to Bruce Y. Lee, ‘Tears could be your body’s way of saying, “Hey, take a break,” or “something’s not right,” or “take care of yourself.” Tearing up can then be a way of your body literally crying out to you.’ Tears get the pain and anguish out. They enable us to express our vulnerability to conflict.

You will surprise yourself by remembering what you lived through. I used to cringe with incapacitation when my “Ma” or spiritual brother would tell me, “It will only make you stronger,” as life was kicking my teeth out. The only conflict I liked was if I directly or indirectly gave it to someone (during education or corporate work) encased with antagonistic sarcasm. I took pride in my little jabs, but along the way, I would let people take advantage of my weakness. I grew up and lived my early adulthood fearing confrontations. I am now at a place of self-empowerment because I let the abuser, family members, and community officials know that I am and was wounded. In other words, I became stronger by exposing my vulnerability. We all will get wounded in conflicts, but we learn not to let ourselves be left for dead.


Works Cited:

C. JoyBell, C. “C. JoyBell C. > Quotes > Quotable Quote” Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/469248-choose-your-battles-wisely-after-all-life-isn-t-measured-by. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

Crossman, Ashley “What Is Symbolic Interactionism?” ThoughtCo., https://www.thoughtco.com/symbolic-interaction-theory-3026633. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

Cherry, Kendra “How the Fight or Flight Response Works.” Verywell Mind, https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

Lee Y., Bruce “How Crying Can Help You, Here Is What A Study Says.” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2019/07/21/how-crying-can-help-you-here-is-what-a-study-says/#76c3b1ca57c5. Accessed 9 Sept. 2019.

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