Conflict is a normal and essential reality when humans seek to relate together.  It is basically the flash point of differences in thinking and behaving.  While conflict may be uncomfortable, it need not be destructive.  In fact, it can and should help to deepen relationships.  The main concern is to make sure that conflict is healthy.

Healthy conflict is cooperative where people together seek to clarify and correct the problems they are having in relating to each other.  Unhealthy conflict is adversarial where people seek to win points and vanquish their opponents.  The metaphor I like to use is the circle and the line.  Healthy conflict is like two people standing in a circle together looking at the relational problems they are facing and jointly trying to solve them.  They have the same interest, namely, improving their relationship.  They are on the same side, standing together facing a challenge.

Unhealthy conflict is when people draw a line in the sand and do battle with each other.  They are adversaries.  Someone is going to “win” and someone is going to “lose”.  The truth is that both will lose.  There is no communion when one person seeks to dominate the other.  The conflict is unhealthy because the relationship suffers and will eventually succumb to disease if disagreements continued to be resolved this way.

In order to have healthy conflicts both people need to listen, seek first to understand the other, and admit when they are wrong.  It is admittedly difficult to do these things when you feel hurt.  The natural urge is to retaliate.  Honestly communicating can help to overcome this tendency.  Simply admit that you are hurt or angry, but you still want to resolve things and are open to being wrong.  A frank confession can do wonders to keep the doors open.  Then listen with the objective to understand rather than reply.  And like everything in life, the more you practice these skills the better you will get at them.

Community is about good relationships.  Conflict is inevitable and a necessary process for maturing relationships.  Learning to accept and positively engage in conflict is an essential skill for those in any kind of community.