How I Plan to Win a Fight

A few weeks ago I went to the Dallas area to stay with a friend, get away from the kids for awhile, watch the Superbowl, and try to relax.  The trip went really well until the last day when we got into what seemed to be a small tiff.

He came home from work and took me to lunch.  He was having a bad day and seemed distracted, so we didn’t talk much.  When we got back to his place I took my shoes off and began to relax a bit before leaving for the airport. He had to get back to work but wanted me to move my car out of his garage before he left.  “Why?” I said.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to get the garage door closed when you leave.”

“What?  I can close a garage door.”

“But you need a remote to close it when you’re leaving.”

“No, I can hit the button from the inside and walk out while it’s closing.”

(Him, getting ramped up because I’m not listening)  “But you’ll trip the sensor and the garage won’t close.”

(Me, getting ramped up but not stopping to ask why) “I know about the sensor, I close our garage door that way all the time at home.  If nothing else I can just come back in the house, close it, then leave through the front door.”

My friend, “Fine.  Bye.”  Walks out the door

Me, thinking “Wow, we’re not going to see each other for another year and that’s how you want to leave it?  Ok, jerk.  Have a nice life.”

Now, I’m a Christian man, meaning that I think things like this should be handled the way Jesus wants me to handle them, which means I should’ve just moved the stupid car.  I got really convicted about the whole thing and sent him a text saying that I was sorry and should have moved the car.  No response.  I left a similar note on the kitchen table next to the key to his house.  Still haven’t heard anything.

I know, it all sounds really stupid.  When I got home and told my wife about it she looked at me like all wives look at you when you’ve done something stupid.  “Why didn’t you just move your car?  Wouldn’t that have been easier?” Me (like a dog who just got caught drinking out of the toilet) “Yeah…”

But this fight’s not over – there’s still some fighting left to do.

First, I’ll need to call my friend and let him vent about what happened.  I’ll have to fight against my need to always be right, and my need to never lose – at anything.  I’ll have to ask him questions that give him the freedom to tell me how he feels.  What I’ll probably find out is that what pissed him off had little to do with the garage door, and more to do with him feeling disrespected and un-listened to.  Most fights have little to do with the issue at hand, and more to do with old wounds and unresolved anger.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have some really sad stuff they’re carrying around day-to-day.  I’ll need to make sure he’s in a good place before I move to the next step, which might take awhile, so I’ll have to fight my tendency to “fix” things quickly.

The next step will be to explain to him why I got so ramped up.  To do this, I’ll have to fight the fears I have of being vulnerable, of sharing my weaknesses with other people.  Here’s what I’m scared of sharing.

I spent most of my life being treated like a fuck-up, mainly because I was the guy who fucked things up alot.  So, I grew up feeling like a fuck-up.  It’s not a good feeling, so around my college years I decided to no longer be a fuck-up, and every time someone treated me like a fuck-up I’d get really mad.  Really. Mad.  I’ve managed to transcend the image in my later years, just a bit at least, but I still get really mad when treated like an incompetent.  So, when someone communicates to me, for example, that I can’t do something simple like close a garage door, I get really ramped up.  It’s not their fault, they’ve just unwittingly traipsed into a very old wound that I haven’t quite managed to redeem yet.

I’ll have to share all of that with my friend, and I’m scared to death to do it.  What if he doesn’t listen?  What if I can never get him to the point where it’s time to talk about my side of things?  What if I can’t control all of this?  I’ve laid out this nice little plan about how things should go but who knows how he’ll respond.  Who knows where this will land?

It’s hard for me to articulate how important my relationship with him is.  I’ve known him most of my life and can’t imagine life without him.  What will ultimately win this fight for me is my commitment to our relationship.  When I deem the relationship more important than my pride, or prevailing over someone so I can feel “right,” I win.  Every. Time.

But it’s also important for me to tell my side of the story, for him to understand what happened with me.  For me to have a voice.  He could have easily trusted me to close the garage door but he didn’t, and that hurt my feelings.

That’s right.  I said it.  It hurt my feelings.  Regardless of why I got my feelings hurt, I got my feelings hurt.  I wish I didn’t.  I wish I was more mature than that.  But let’s be honest – we hate to talk about getting our feelings hurt, it makes us feel childish, not-so-mature.  Weak.  Unfortunately it happens all the time in adulthood.  That’s why we get angry.  Anger, most of the time, especially in interpersonal conflict, is a symptom of hurt feelings.  How many times did you get angry in 2015?  That’s how many times you got your feelings hurt – hate to break it to you.  But telling someone that they hurt you will get their attention much faster than if you say, “hey dickhead, I’m an adult, you need to trust me to close the stupid garage door.”

He might say something akin to “I hurt your feelings?  What are you a three year old?”  At that point I’d recite what I’ve stated above.  If that doesn’t go anywhere I can remind him of multiple episodes of where his anger was driven by his hurt.  Like I said, I’ve known him for a really long time.

But it doesn’t matter how he responds.  I call it a win if I 1) let him vent and 2) get to a place where I can tell my side of the story.  If all of that happens and he’s still mad at me, I’ll remember that there are deeper things at play here.  I have some intimate knowledge of the unresolved hurts that he walks with day-to-day.  If he’s not willing to let this go, or forgive me, it will be because there are things at play that are darker and deeper than a garage door.  If our future encounter doesn’t go the way I plan it to go, I’ll have compassion, and I’ll forgive.  That’s where being a Christian comes in really handy by the way.  I believe God has forgiven me for all infractions – past, present, and future, regardless of whether or not I deserve forgiveness.  For me to un-forgive someone, regardless of whether or not they deserve it, is the deepest act of unbelief, according Jesus’ teachings (click here for a verse that illustrates this perfectly).

It’s tempting to live in the extremes – either cutting the other person off and walking away, or apologizing for everything.  Both are easy but neither is an investment in the relationship.

So yes, I’ll try and get him to vent, and I’ll try to tell my side of the story.  If things don’t go my way, I’ll remember what he’s dealing with and forgive.  More than likely, I’ll be closer to him and more committed to him than I was before. That’s what happens when you put this kind of risk and work into a relationship.

Either way, I’ll win.  That’s what conflict is all about


37 thoughts on “How I Plan to Win a Fight

  • Good luck with your friend. We all do things and say things in the heat of the moment and get hett up about them once we reevaluate the situation. You and your friend sound like you have a lot of history together and im sure that your friendship will be even stronger once you have given each other the time to speak and talk about your feelings. Good luck and God bless you all xx

  • Old wounds are hard to shake! Even if he does not reciprocate your apologies you will have acknowledged your part in the conflict, became vulnerable and spiritually grown forward. Way to show courage🌸

  • IDk, if I were him, I’m sorry would have been enough. A friendship that’s so old shouldn’t require such a baring of the soul, as long as you are clear, and he knows you are. Still, I know it’s nice to be heard, and acknowledged by people who are important to us in our lives. Good luck, I hope it all works out.

  • I have to admit something. I rather enjoy your posts and read them often. However that’s not the admission. I have a certain…hesitance…with Christians (present even when I chose to follow your blog). I’ve experienced one too many “Christians” in my life who’ve used their beliefs to hurt, condemn, or alienate people; all to turn around and commit some of the sickest acts I’ve ever seen. Yes, I’m quite aware of the fact that this paints my perception and that “not all Christians are like that”. Nonetheless, I was a child when it all went down and it left a “stain” I’ve been trying to wash out since. So I wanted to thank you for 1. Being a Christian who talks about real issues and doesn’t pretend everything is perfect, 2. For being a christian who still says the word “fuck” (This is a sign of humanity in my twisted little brain) and 3. Writing a piece that touches closely on something I’ve been going through lately and giving me the gentle reminder that it almost always comes back to “something deeper”. I’m working on a post about that very topic right now actually lol. So, it was a pleasure. Thank you.

    • Your comment reminded me of the following: ” Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7: 22-23). I may be quoting out of context, but I believe there are many who sport the title “Christian” who are so far from Jesus Christ it’s almost laughable. When encountering people I try to see into their heart; what they really do, how they really treat people. But then probably this has everything to do with the “religion” I grew up in, where hypocrisy (and abuse) reigned supreme. For simplicity sake, I call myself a Christian, but really I strive to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. (if that makes any sense).

      • Thanx for your thoughts and your honesty. I agree with you. “Christian” to me means someone who is trying, come hell or high water, to make Jesus their boss – to live like He did. But for me that kind of life (love, compassion, forgiveness, influence, impact, etc) is diametrically opposed to how so many Christians live. It’s really frustrating to watch the damage.

      • Yeah that makes sense and I do think that verse applies. I have no respect for people who use a religion that’s supposed to be loving and beautiful to push their own agenda or justify doing messed up things. But this applies to anything. I just generally believe that if you’re going to be a scumbag at least own it. Don’t feed me some horse shit about it being “because of” something.

  • My husband always says each person has a bag of rocks s/he carries around. The only way we’d really understand where folks are coming from would be if we all carried sandwich boards around our neck listing what our hot buttons are and why. I guess that is why they call this life a ‘journey.’

  • It’s really hard to admit to having hurt feelings. Harder than admitting you were wrong and saying sorry.

    I fell out with my mother – big time. It was some time ago. I felt like she didn’t appreciate anything that I did to help her out. Rather than saying “you really hurt my feelings” and talking it through, naturally I just got angry with her and everything became an argument.

    When I finally did tell her that she’d hurt me, she was very apologetic. If I’d just said so in the first place then the whole issue could have been dealt with.

    I’m sure your friendship will be back on track after the talk. And like you say, if not then at least you know that he’s working through his own things and leaving the door open.

  • fascinating. sometimes being in close quarters, even with someone who is a close friend, or even an ex college roommate, for more than a few days brings out a feeling of confinement and being backed into a corner, and fights errupt for no reason and turn into power fights about territory.
    as much as I adore old friends visiting, three days is just about the limit for me. but I definitely like how you are handling the problem. thank you

  • Excellent post.. I was right there with you. It takes not only courage to show your vulnerable underbelly (to yourself then to the one you are dealing with in that moment), but to remain loyal to staying with it and not just run away. I’d love to read a part 2 to this process.
    As for the Christian part, my first reaction was “uh oh”, but I quickly saw that there need to be more christians like you who understand the true meaning of spirituality and humanity. For me Buddhism answers many of my own questions, but in the end it’s all the same. Michele

  • I really enjoyed reading this blog–I appreciate the honesty and insight you’ve shared. I find it helps validate a concept I learned recently in a sermon I listened to via youtube wherein the speaker taught on marriage and discussed matter from the male versus female perspective. I blundered through too many years being clueless to a mans need for respect. I didn’t even know what that was, as it was not modeled to me as a child. I’m still seeking to learn how it works in applicable terms. This blog serves a great example of the principle. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading and learning.

  • I think that sometimes we humans find it difficult to let go of our own sense of self righteousness (and I mean that in a non spiritual sense). What transpired between you and your friend on your way out can be analyzed a hundred ways til Sunday and you still may not have complete understanding until you have the very honest conversation you described in this post. Conflicts happen, a good friend will meet you half way. Good luck!

  • I hope you and your friend sort things out. N ot just on the surface over the garage door and what was said but also maybe some of those deeper issues. It is often little things that cause such trouble between people and it’s so easy to look back and think: “why did I bite? Why didn’t I just let it go? it wasn’t worth putting ur friendship on the line.” Yet, at the same time, all these little things can add up and if we don’t feel respected by our friend, we;; we also need to stand up and say: “Mate, you’ve got to have a bit of trust”. “I youre friend but sometimes you don’t have enough faith in me. What’s that about?” These conversations are often difficult to have and its easier just to find another friend who respects you but when you have so much history, you need to fight for that friendship. I think that all sounds rather contradictory so I hope it makes sense xx Rowena

  • Hope you and your friend were able to sort things out, or will sort things out, if you guys haven’t spoken yet!

    I used to be very angry with anyone telling me what to do because of my “baggage” that I carry around, but the fact that you realize what’s causing you to feel that way, and actually recognizing what the issue is speaks volumes of the kind of person you are. Stay blessed and keep writing!

    -The Whore

  • I know this situation exactly. But I remember feeling like “Was our relationship NOT important enough to her to push back some pride and just talk to me?” It’s been over a year now since she spoke to me, she blocked me from everything and I’ve made a million attempts. The non closure pisses me off most. This post is spot on. I’d love to know the outcome of your interaction with him. Good luck.

  • I love your post. I’m very much the same way when my feelings have been hurt. I’m so glad that God understands us and doesn’t treat us the way we treat treat other. Great lesson you’ve taught me today.

  • Great post, I too fall into the category of ‘wary of Christians’ but your take on issues is refreshing, articulate and inspiring. I felt while I was reading this that if all else fails, you could always send him a copy of this post. Hope it works out for you.

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