BY E.M. FORTIER
“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” – Kahlil Gibran
A lawyer who doesn’t like conflict is like a physician who doesn’t like blood. At first glance it would seem to be a dispositive aversion. If you look closer, it can be the determining factor in who excels in their field. Those who are forced to embrace an element they don’t like are made to understand the gravity of that from which they would otherwise shy away.
Blood is a life force which is often determinative of who survives and who passes. Conflict is an element of life that none who live among the world can fully avoid.
I have worked in both fields – medicine and law – and have interestingly found that the way in which we engage in our interactions of conflict can lead to as much of a deadening of life as the physical death from the loss of blood. But, unlike those cut down by physical death, the pain of needless and cruel conflict leaves an empty shell of humanity – still fully animated but without a heart.
Is there a purpose to conflict? As my law school professor wrote on the board all those years ago – “Conflict can be your friend.” But to what end? To the end that it results in a just and correct resolution. It is not about winning. It is not about proving YOU are the better person. It is not about building yourself up while decimating the other person. It is not a game.
It is heartbreaking to watch a society that claims to be about “staying home to keep others safe” become vicious keyboard warriors ready to verbally mutilate anyone and everyone if they should dare say something that might contradict the writer’s views or understanding. We all have strong opinions, especially in times of important and potentially life altering events. We will often disagree because we have separate standards, separate beliefs and unique life experiences and knowledge. In my days of “professional conflict”, I often had very different perspectives and standards than opposing parties. More times than not, when it goes before a third party to determine who is correct, it turns out we are both partially correct; and, therefore, we are both also partially wrong. But some of my closest friends are those I sit on the opposite side of the courtroom from every day. Why? Because conflict cannot determine who we are; if it does, it will destroy the essence of us.
We can disagree without personal attacks. We can embrace conflicting opinions without simultaneously tearing ourselves apart. To be kind when you are in disagreement does not weaken your opinion, it does not lessen the strength of your argument. Stay home to keep others safe now, remain kind in your distance interactions to keep a community you want to return to one day.