Embracing the Gifts of Conflict for Social Change

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

-Fannie Lou Hamer

To get free, we need ways to navigate the hard parts involved in working with others as we build a world rooted in interdependence, regeneration, and justice.

Illustration by Shirien Damra
Illustration by Shirien Damra

Five Gifts of Turning Towards Conflict

  1. Conflict connects us to our values and needs. Conflict indicates that there has been a “miss” in meeting a core need. Our core needs (e.g. belonging, autonomy, creative expression) are rooted in values —(e.g. love, justice, liberation). Conflicts allow us to get familiar with our core needs and the ways we get activated when we experience them not being met. This pushes us to grow by taking responsibility for our needs and to come into deeper alignment with our values.
  2. Conflict clarifies strategy. Often times, conflicts in groups are a result of unclear strategy, i.e. how a group meets its goals. Teasing out the strategic questions from the interpersonal tensions can help clarify what the disagreement is really about, and allow a group to more deeply align on the “how.”
  3. Conflict surfaces assumptions. Conflict surface outdated assumptions in how we relate to each other, why we want to do our change work, and what we think the best way to get there is. When these assumptions haven’t been challenged, we can often be operating within the status quo (i.e. structural oppression on auto-pilot). When we surface, name, and update assumptions, insights abound.
  4. Conflict heals. Conflict shines a light on past hurts and traumas (structural and interpersonal), on our neglected parts that are most afraid and most in need of love. If held in the context of mutual care and growth, conflict offers these neglected parts a new context in which to experience being met with care and love. Such experiences can be deeply healing and liberating.
  5. Conflict strengthens relationships. When we take the risk to reveal our needs and uncomfortable truths, and navigate challenges together, we build intimacy and trust. Turning toward each other through conflict heals and brings us closer to the relationships we need, to actually get to the world we want to live in.

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Jovida Ross & Weyam Ghadbian

Jovida Ross & Weyam Ghadbian

Jovida works with Real Food Real Stories, seeding culture towards a caring & just tomorrow. Weyam is a Syrian community weaver, healer & facilitator.