Conflict is not only inevitable, it is necessary. As many of you say to yourselves, “that’s the most staunch and conservative thing Nathan has ever said”, allow me to explain. I am not referring to our wars as men, our world-wide battles that arise from a lack of communication and understanding. The necessary conflict I am referring to is our every-day tribulation, our moments of resistance that make us appreciate what we have. We are naturally more emotionally invested in anything where we have become part of the process, the period of growth. Like the growing pains of an awkward, developing child, things aren’t always so easy. Conflicts do arise, but the in the long run the lessons learned from overcoming these adversities make it all worth it in the end. We all know what they say about teaching a man to fish as opposed to taking that man through the drive-thru at Long John Silver’s. It’s easy to pacify somebody, and harder to challenge them, and that challenge of learning lessons through tough love makes us stronger and more resilient.
Perhaps the most often overlooked day-to-day conflict is the one that each of us has with ourselves. We all read books, and watch movies about wars, battles, and hockey games. I ponder: does any conflict have more drama than the inner battle of one’s self? I am not referring to the inner conflict of temptation, as humorous as the imagery of angels and devils on shoulders is. I am also not referring to the inner battle for happiness, since that fight tends to resolve itself in a cyclical fashion over time. The conflict I am thinking of fundamentally encompasses both of these, and also involves two distinct characters. The conflict that fascinates me is the battle between our actual self, and the non-existent person that we wish we were. It is a compelling standoff because our actual self will always be the underdog, since the idealized version of ourself has the advantage of being imaginary and therefore capable of anything.
I’m sure for some people the two are similar than for others, but this is a dilemma that each of us face often, for some people even daily. Perhaps that person you stare at in the mirror has taken more risks, or is a better listener. Maybe that person was stronger than you earlier on in life, avoiding addictions and illnesses. The person looking back at you could be in love with different people, wearing different clothes, and living in a different city. We have everything in common with this person, while still having nothing in common with them. They are the better “us”, the worse “us”, and the same “us”, somehow all at once.
It is easy to see this relationship as a negative one, since it is after all a constant reminder of what we are not. I wonder what we would could be capable of if we shifted our thinking, and began to view the conflict with our better self as a healthy, growing relationship. How many times in our lives are we told these words: “be yourself!” The simplicity of this cliché is the exact reason it is so daunting; do we even know who “yourself” is? The person that knows us better than anybody is that better half, that one that we get so angry with because their life has been so much “easier”. We grow through our hardest moments, we evolve past our worst adversity. A conversation with our better self could help us to not only be ourself, but also realize how thankful we are for the toughest of days, the darkest of nights, and the most grueling pains. Somewhere between conflict and perfection lies the most beautiful fruition of all discord, ourselves.