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Rewriting Your Conflict Story

During recess in elementary school, I was playing pickle with some friends at the side of a baseball diamond. We were in our own little world; trapping people between the bases, faking out the runners, diving to tag our friends so that we could switch spots. We were having a great time until I went sliding, feet first, into the base at the same time a foul ball was hit from the baseball diamond. The result? Me, huddling in the corner of the nurse’s office nursing my swollen eye with an ice pack. Since then, the idea of standing on first or third base with a ball hurtling towards me scares the living bedazzles out of me. Why? Whenever I’m standing there, all I can picture is that day beside the ball diamond and I can picture a line drive heading straight for my head.

The “pickle incident” (as it’s become known to me as) is a past experience or hurt that shapes the way I view playing baseball. It’s my past story. It’s the story I tell myself when I’m on the field (which is rare because I know have a strong dislike for baseball). I’ve told this story over and over again, who did what, what went wrong, what I would do differently. We all have stories that have shaped how we act in the world today. For many of us, we also have stories of past conflicts that are not pushing us any closer to resolving those conflicts.

Tammy Lenski recently wrote a new book called The Conflict Pivot: Turning Conflict into Peace of Mind (affiliate link) and in it she says, “For most of us, conflict is a trap of the past. We spend time thinking and talking about who did what, who said what, what they or we should have done differently, who was wrong, and who was right.” We become engrained in our stories and we bring them into every interaction we have with the people that “inflicted” those conflicts on us.

Here’s the problem though – when we talk about our conflict stories, we’re living in the past. Sure there is merit in walking through those stories and learning from them, but if we aren’t wiling to put them into the past our conflict backpack is going to get heavier and heavier to carry around with us. The good news is that you can deal with them on your own.

Conflict Vs. Conflict Resolution
Tammy writes, “While conflict can be a trap of the past, conflict resolution is an act of the present and the future.” The good and bad news about this is that it is entirely up to you. You control whether you want to stew over something that you can’t change at all, or you can face forward, identify what can be changed, and move forward. This doesn’t mean that you need to forget what happened in the past, but it does mean that you need to shift your focus on the area that you can still influence; the present and the future.

“For many of the conflicts in your life, the conversation you most need to have is with yourself” ~ Tammy Lenski

So what does that mean? It means that the next time I play baseball I’m going to learn from what the “pickle incident” has taught me. Always keep your eye on the ball and looking forward.


Jason Dykstra

Jason is a Conflict Management Specialist who is helping organizations and congregations move from conflict situations to creative solutions. He specializes in relational and communication issues and uses his experience and training in mediation, group facilitation, conflict management coaching, speaking and teaching to aid you and your surroundings to better… MORE >

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