Conflict is a Dragon
Tame it or be Consumed by its Fire
Conflict in a relationship, household, community, or nation is like a dragon. When it is hatched it is small and harmless. You can even say that it is ‘cute’. But you have to beware that like a baby dragon, it is growing and its growth is slow and insignificant on a day-by-day basis.
But with the understanding you have about a dragon’s life, you should know this cute little dragon isn’t an eternal baby. It is growing and you have to rise up and tame it — even at the risk of being bitten. And sure enough, it will bite you when you try to tame it. It will even spit out some hot air, hot enough to hurt but notice it’s not yet fire.
You have to face this tiny dragon with force, intelligence, and urgency to subdue it. Time isn’t on your side. To postpone taming it to next week or next month or when the summer comes is to face a bigger, scarier, and more tantrum sharp baby. As you ignore or delay the taming, your dragon keeps growing. You might even get used to its increasing size. You accommodate it. You make more room for it by letting go of certain things you care about. It seems like a little compromise to make. You don’t want to disturb its peace and invite some of that hot air it spits out. “I can manage,” you think.
Somehow you become blind to its increasing insidious lethality. As you give it more room and take more caution to not disturb its peace, it becomes more and more dangerous. But then, you have gotten really good at avoiding waking up the ‘sleeping danger’. You promptly adjust each time something seems to trigger this dragon.
Your life feels hijacked but what else can you do? Wake up the dragon? No, you’ll manage. You haven’t thought deeply about how long you can do that. And seeing and dealing with the “little” monster every day is making you more and more blind to its size. That’s just human. We don’t notice the increasing size of a tree on day by day basis do we? Imagine how much more difficult it will be to notice its size if the tree was lying on the ground like this sleeping dragon.
Nevertheless, your little dragon has become so big now that it scares the shit out of your visitors. When they manage to visit your house they are uncomfortable and tense. But you assure them everything is okay. “Everything is fine. I will be fine. Don’t worry about me.” They shouldn’t worry about you? Somehow you don’t see that the eyes of your dragon have become fiery yellow. Other people can’t look into its eyes. They freak out at its groan. And they hurriedly say their goodbyes and leave without even accepting your hospitality.
But you believe that if only they were familiar with this dragon as much as you are they will see that it’s not really that scary. You’re right. They might even have a different kind of dragon they are comfortable with too. But sooner or later, they stop visiting you completely. They hardly have time to drop by these days they say. You have your suspicion the dragon in your household is the real reason they no longer show up. But you don’t want the brutal truth so you shake off the suspicion.
But one day, the fire that’s built up in your dragon erupts. The “little dragon” that used to just lie in its corner rises up and burst through the roof by simply standing on its legs. You are brutally yanked into inevitable reality. Suddenly you realize that your little dragon was a beast that spits fire. It’s been like that for a long time but you just chose to not see it for what it really was — a maker of hell. Now, it's too late and you no longer need to die to know hell. This “little” dragon unleashed it for you.
You are nothing before it. It sets your household and your whole life in flames. The breath that once just produced enough heat to raise the temperature of the house, though to unbearable levels, is now a consuming fire — consuming your life inside-out. You try to remind the dragon of all the good times of yesterday. But memories are not a language it understands.
In fact, the dragon takes vengeance on you for ignoring its ability and limiting its full expression. It was high time it showed you the full extent of its capability. And it does so with impunity. Your world collapses before your very own eyes. But deep inside you know this end was imminent for a long time. This is just the day of reckoning and you are paying the price for your own folly and cowardice.
Now let’s discuss
This is the nature of all conflicts in life dramatized. Think of conflicts that turn two people who love each other into harboring deadly resentment and even feelings of vengeance. Think about conflicts that turn father against son and daughter against mother and tear down once-loving families. Think of conflicts that tear entire nations apart and turn one group, ethnicity, or region against another. None of them is ever an overnight disaster. All signs of their impending eruption were evident.
We easily get used to adjusting and compromising instead of confronting the real problem, the dragon in our household. We just want to “keep the peace”. Only that we can’t. Eventually, we set everything we care about on flames. Our world collapses.
I could tell you about the conflict that’s torn present-day Cameroon apart since 2017; the one that unleashed doom in Rwanda in 1994 and many more. But let’s not go into those. The key point I am making is that all conflicts start out small. If addressed at that level, the rise of a deadly dragon will be stopped at infancy. As individuals, many of us don’t have the influence to curtail conflicts of certain magnitudes. But most of us are well able to confront conflict earlier in our personal relationships, families, and small groups to curtail their culmination into untameable dragons spitting unquenchable fires that devour the life out of us and devour the things we’ve built with sweat and toil.
So, what are you gonna do? Pet your dragons when they’re little and cute or tame and subdue them? The choice is entirely yours.