If I say the word “conflict,” what comes to mind?
A drunk sailor fighting over a girl?
War? The Axis powers versus the Allies?
Good versus evil? The dark side versus the light?
A parent and a teenager disagreeing over where they will be doing what with whom?
What is Conflict?
Conflict is the dramatic struggle between two forces in a story.
It is tension. It is disagreement. It is a fork in the road. It is circumstances demanding that we make a choice.
Conflict can be external. An argument. A flight. A struggle again an oppressive regime. A high stakes poker game between two experienced players.
It is what we find when we try to change the world. It is resistance.
Conflict is often internal too. It is choosing between what we want and what we know to be better. It is choosing between vegetables and cookies. Conflict is breaking free of what holds us back. It is opening our eyes to see the world in a different light. Conflict can be listening to the opinion of someone else.
Conflict is allowing ourselves to notice the plight of another instead of focusing on ourselves.
Conflict is the battle that ensues when Frodo chooses to take the ring to Mordor. Both the physical battle of the journey and the mental/emotional battle of choosing the danger. And ultimately the internal conflict of his desire for the ring.
Conflict is the lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. The war between the empire and the rebel forces. The internal battle between Darth Vader and what remains of Anakin Skywalker.
Conflict is Inevitable
Your life is full of it. So is mine. And I don’t care much for it.
I am a conflict avoider.
I will go to great lengths to avoid facing the tension that can occur between me and someone else. I will avoid topics. I will give in to the desire of others. I will cross over to the other side of the street when I see a certain somebody coming my way. I might even lie.
I had a friend who recently told me about lying to his wife. He had stopped at a Burger King drive-through for lunch that day. In the evening his wife asked him what he did for lunch. He didn’t tell her he ate two greasy, cheesy junior Whoppers. He didn’t want to participate in the discussion that he knew would follow his disclosure. So he made something up.
When his wife found the receipt in his car, conflict became inevitable.
We can’t avoid it, yet all of us try.
Conflict is Necessary
Every good story, whether it is fictional or real, is filled with conflict. Without conflict a story is simply a person doing stuff. Eating. Sleeping. Pooping. Breathing.
There is no story without conflict. It is the part that leaves us wanting more at the end of a chapter. Conflict is what keeps us coming back for next week’s episode. Conflict is the reason we stay tuned.
A story without conflict is like coffee without caffeine. It is like a party without music. It is like a birthday without cake. Conflict is the life of story.
Conflict is the catalyst for action resulting in change.
It is this change in the character we hope for. What will they do? What will they choose? Will they overcome?
Conflict helps the character to see something new. It forces the character to overcome obstacles. It gives the character the opportunity to let go of the things that hold her back. Conflict demands more.
And this is why all of us should stop avoiding it. To let the change be. To open our eyes. To engage the conflict.
It is in conflict that we become. It is conflict that opens our eyes to something new. It is conflict that helps us overcome. It is through conflict we eventually learn to love.
Have you experienced conflict in your life? Did it change you?
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