Friday, July 27, 2007

What Creates Conflict?

From time immemorial, the world has witnessed unnecessary conflict and suffering. Why does this occur? Is conflict an inevitable part of human nature?

There are many different outer reasons for conflict; but, the source of conflict always begins in the human mind. If we do not have peace of mind, conflict in the outer world is inevitable. These are often the inner reasons for outer conflict.

1. Superiority

It is the ego that separates and divides. It is the ego that gives us feelings of inferiority and superiority. When we have feelings of superiority, we wish to assert our supremacy over others. We feel justified in seeking to change / enlighten / improve other people. It is these concepts which are often at the source of conflict. Because we feel our way of life and beliefs are better than others, we desire to convert others to our way of living. This gives us the self justification to create conflict. Closely related to feeling of supremacy are ideas of inferiority. Quite often we feel that others are seeking to prove their superiority over us. Because of this we are afraid and defensive. We have a subconscious feeling of inferiority and therefore, feel obliged to assert ourselves; conflict becomes a way of asserting and proving ourselves.

2. Separation.

Another root source of conflict is the idea of separation between ourselves and other people. This can manifest in cultural / religious or national separation. It is this sense of separation that causes us to look upon the other side as our enemy. It becomes impossible to sympathise or have any feeling of oneness. Because there is a sense of separation we become indifferent to the suffering of others. If we identified with other people as an extended part of ourselves, we would emphasise with their suffering and seek to avoid it.

3. Pride

Pride is related both to superiority and separation. It is pride that encourages us to feel separate from others. Pride means that we become unwilling to back down or admit that we were wrong. Because of pride we pursue strategies that perpetuate conflict. If we could swallow our pride we would be willing to apologise for doing the wrong thing and thus enable a resolution to conflict. Unfortunately, we give too much opinion to our ego and feelings of pride. We wrongly assume that to admit a mistake is a sign of weakness. Actually, to admit a mistake and change our course of action requires strength. If we are doing the wrong thing, continuing this course of action, only aggravates the situation and makes it worse.

If your mind is consumed
With disproportionate pride,
How can your heart be inundated
With oneness-delight?

- Sri Chinmoy

4. A Long Memory.

Many insoluble conflicts go back a long time. Each party is able to bring a long list of grievances to any negotiating table. These grievances and perceived slights often remain a stumbling block to negotiation. Usually in response to one side's grievances, the opposite side merely respond with their own list of grievances. When people are attached to the wrongs of the past, it becomes very difficult to create a harmonious future.

5. Priorities.

For many people harmony is not their highest priority. Whilst this remains the case, it becomes very difficult to do anything about it. To have an end to conflict, it is necessary that people sincerely aspire for this. Quite often, it becomes more important that we are "proved right" rather than work to dissolve conflict and suffering.

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