Conflict Equals Growth

Throughout the early part of my 30’s I got a few tattoos and here is one of them:

By the way, have you ever read anything on any social media platform that makes fun of people who get tattoos of Chinese/Japanese symbols that never actually mean what the recipient thinks they mean?  Well, I’m that guy. And, I only found out a year in a half ago from a Chinese nurse that was treating my mother in the hospital.  See, I thought the symbol meant “Peace”, but it doesn’t.  This symbol (Haping) means peace:

The symbol I have tattooed on me, PING, which is included in the Chinese symbol for peace, actually means: Level, Equal.  And, so I have been walking around believing that my tattoo was conveying the frequency of peace to the world. How wrong I had been.  But, we will get back to this.

A few weeks ago a colleague of mine sent me an email:


I am working on a personal project.

I have read some of your writings and its thought provoking. I am curious of your perception and thoughts on PEACE.

When I say Peace, I don’t mean superficially. Based on success, everything going well, avoidance of problems/suffering.

But Peace that is beyond situational:

Peace in self

Peace in and to others

Peace in circumstances

Peace in tragedy

Peace in life

When peace and happiness become estranged.

Any insight/wisdom is appreciated!

I responded and we set up a time to speak, while at that moment I had not given the subject matter of her question a ton of critical thought. Although, I did find it interesting that I had tattooed what I thought was the word peace on my body and was going to offer this up as a way of presenting my connection to the concept. We soon met on the phone and had a truly enlightening conversation. It all started with the question; “What does the concept of “Peace” mean to me”?  I thought about it very briefly and said “balance”. I am not sure if the Ping (my tattoo) concept of two forces being level or equal had anything to do with it, but I felt the word peace, for me, is akin to balance. The word peace is defined as “freedom from disturbance, tranquility”. Something being at peace or having the quality of “tranquility” is synonymous with the idea that two opposites have achieved a state of balance or lack of conflict. By that I mean that one side is not dominating the other side. Like the analogy of a scale being level because the weight on each side is equal.  We discussed peace in the context of self, circumstances, tragedy and life and I was amazed at how my understanding of the word changed when I substituted the word balance for peace.  A word that I had tattooed on my body, that for me represented tranquility or calmness, 20 years earlier.

I experienced an AHA moment about “peace” and “balance” and why I inadvertently tattooed Ping (the Chinese word for level, equal) instead of Heping (the Chinese word for peace) 2-3 days after our conversation. I was able to connect the dots from a moment I had with Julie early on in my marriage. I was having some dilemma at work and she used a phrase that would stick with me 22 years later. It is simply this “conflict equals growth”. A few days after our conversation, I was thinking about it all and realized that we are not necessarily here to experience “peace” in every facet or our lives for the extended duration of our lives. In fact, I realized that the state of peace cannot be achieved without first experiencing conflict. And, then all the little dots began to connect. We can achieve peace or balance in some parts of our lives, during different periods of our lives, but sustaining that state is nearly impossible. Your greatest objective in this life is growth, evolvement, development, progress, improvement and so on. And, that cannot happen without polarity, without conflict. Love vs. Hate, Good vs. Evil, Attraction vs. Disconnection.  Everything in the universe has a polarity, a duality (Masculine and Feminine, Ying and Yang). Its what allows us to experience all the fullness, beauty and meaningfulness that life has to offer.       

In those moments that we feel peace or balance, we know that we have achieved a state of equilibrium between two polarities or the duality of forces in our lives. 

The Good balancing the Evil.  The Love balancing the Hate. The Attraction balancing the Disconnection.  And, vice versa. But, for how long can we maintain these states of peace? And, in how many of our inner and exterior life parts or areas can we sustain these states of peace? Indefinitely? Not a chance. It is almost impossible to achieve indefinite states of peace because of the nature of life itself.  Built from duality, our experience reveals the richness of life only through the trials and tribulations of conflict.  You wouldn’t appreciate or understand being a Democrat without having Republicans or being a Wolverine without having the Buckeyes. Or being Female without having Males. You get the idea. And, here is why I know this is true. 

Your greatest moments of growth or achievement were most likely preceded by some of your most trying moments of conflict.

So, back to the tattoo. Shit! Damnit! Of course it doesn’t! Those were my feelings when that nurse told me that my tattoo did not mean peace. I actually did the research before inking it on my arm for life. My researching skills suck. And, then I thought about it and accidents really don’t happen, it was by design, but why? So, I started doing some research. Hopefully, this time was better then the tattoo research. And, I think I found it. Equal, in the dictionary is defined as “Having the ability or resources to meet (a challenge)”, like in this sentence “the players seem equal to the task”. Where peace (Haping) conveys that the state of tranquility has already been achieved, level/equal (Ping) conveys the idea that we are in a constant state of meeting challenges to create balance or levelness.

Well, that is how I have rationalized it over the last year and a half. I probably should just add the “和”symbol and be done with it.

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