Why Conflict Matters: Entering Into The Tunnel Of Chaos In Our Friendships

Retro boxing gloves

It started as just a misunderstanding, really. I said something careless. She took it the wrong way. And we both ended up feeling confused and hurt by the interaction.

I’m sure it’s happened to you, too, probably by that friend that you think of like a sister. Because those closest to us have the most power to wound us. That’s just the way it works.

But entering into the conflict? Addressing it and having the hard conversation? Well, that’s tough. Really tough. In his leadership book, Axiom, Bill Hybels calls it “entering into the tunnel of chaos” and I think that’s the perfect description because you’re going to put yourself and your feelings out there but you don’t know what’s going to happen or how the other person is going to respond. And that’s scary.

Too many times, I’ve chosen to ignore the hurt or the misunderstanding and pretend it didn’t happen. And sometimes, you can do that. After all, we live in a state of grace and we’re all only human.

But when the hurt doesn’t go away, and I can’t really move past it, it’s time to have the hard conversation. Because if I don’t, I drive a wedge in between me and my friend. And when enough wedges have been placed, the friendship will drift apart and will eventually end. It’s just what happens.

One of my closest friends and I recently had this type of interaction. After over a decade of friendship filled with a few small squabbles, we had THE BIG ONE. The crying, screaming, maybe not completely healthy but completely HONEST fight.

And I hated every minute of it. But guess what happened when we got to the other side?

We’re now closer than we’ve ever been. Because that’s what happens when you’re willing to go there, willing to talk it through, willing to express your hurt and accept responsibility for your part in it.  And when you make it to the other side something magical happens:  your friendship grows to a new place of vulnerability and authenticity that you can’t achieve if you always say the “nice” things and always steer way from the hard conversations.

It won’t be our last “tunnel of chaos” moment for sure. And I can tell you that it gets easier each subsequent time as that friend doesn’t reject you (even when you’re in the wrong) and you decide to move forward together. Because that’s what true friendship looks like.

And it’s always worth it.


Jennifer Lefforge is wife to Scott, mom to John (17), Matt (14) and Wil (14) and the Pastor  of Worship Experience at Irving Bible Church. She blogs about running and life  at http://www.runningpastormom.com.

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