Conflicts provide an opportunity to unfreeze a situation and to allow movement
One of my first memories was hearing the war-chanting of the Huli men in the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea, preparing for a stand-off with another tribe. Conflict was associated with violent and minor-armed conflicts which threatened our peace in a very real way. I saw men and women injured from tribal fighting. My father was attacked by a drunk man and seriously wounded. I saw interpersonal violence on the community level by drunk husbands beating their wives and children being abused by so-called care-givers who had no control over their emotions.
I worked in a church developing leaders, focusing on team development and strategy and overseeing and supporting many affiliated churches in West Africa. I was strongly involved in processes of culture change and faith-based development work which obviously lead many conflictous situations both within the church and between church and society. My “fear” of conflict and presumption that conflicts were negative in their core led me to a conflict style which Thomas Killman describes as avoiding and competitive.
In my role as leader in the church I started to be more outspoken and confrontative in addressing and working with issues of conflict. This allowed me to take a clear stand on my views, interests but also lead to positional thinking and the formation of alliances. In terms of inner identity building this more confrontative approach helped me sharpen my own values and how they inform my views and opinions but also allowed me to formulate my intentions and build a base of followers within the organisation. This finally escalated around the age of 29 years when my positions and views I had to represent as a leader within a circle of leaders and my inner convictions and values were so far apart that the inner tension was no longer tolerable and I decided to resign. Giving up the “external” identity as leader stripped me of my outer clothing but allowed me to re-visit and re-assess who I truly wanted to be and to start making decisions based on deeper personal convictions.