I’m a conflict avoider. If I have a difficult conversation coming up with someone, I have a hard time thinking about anything else. My stomach turns. My sleep is restless. I would do just about anything to re-route my plans in order to sidestep the conflict. Maybe you’re like that as well.
In his book, Chase the Lion, Mark Batterson recounts the time he took a course called Story Seminary from the great screenwriter, Robert McKee. Of all the lessons learned, he said his biggest takeaway was this overarching observation: No conflict, no story. Every epic movie requires an epic conflict. That’s what makes the movie epic!
What’s true of movies is also true of life. “Great conflict cultivates great character” (21). Growth requires change, which necessitates conflict. Epic returns demand epic investment. These maxims can completely transform how you encounter conflict.
In the Story Seminar, McKee teaches that every storyline has defining moments, what he calls “inciting incidents.” These are points of no return—tipping points that force the characters to act or re-act, and those actions determine the ensuing plot.
These inciting incidents are either beyond your control or within your control. Either way, the one thing you can control is your reaction. There are circumstances in your life right now for which you are not responsible, but you are always “response-able.” You are able to choose how you will respond to your conflicts and circumstances.
Over the past few years I’ve had to process through a lot of conflict. Do you remember that I said I’m a conflict avoider? So, life has been filled with numerous inciting incidents, some for which I am not responsible. But I am response-able. I can choose how to turn conflict into character. And so can you.
Some of your inciting incidents are positive, like getting a new job or buying a new house. Others are negative, like losing your job or finding out you have cancer. But don’t judge the cover of your conflict too quickly. Beneath the surface, it may be that your negative incidents actually lead to great blessing, and your positive incidents could have some negative side affects.
That’s why we live by faith and not by sight. What we deem a success may lead to future failure. And the way we manage failure may lead to future success. All we can do is keep believing, keep trusting and keep moving on.
I have a note I keep posted on my desk that reads, “Let go. Learn as you go. Keep going, no matter what” (Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains). I look at it every day to remind me that whatever inciting incidents I may face, my destiny is determined more by cultivating courage than by avoiding conflict. I may not always be responsible for what happens, but I am response-able. And so are you.
In the story of your life, maybe you need to take your next step in moving forward in faith. As is often said, “You can’t steal second base if you keep your foot on first.” So, be of courage. Be response-able. Your epic challenges can lead to epic victories.
“And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up” (Galatians 6:9, TLB).