Monday, December 02, 2002

Fighting Fair

Included in 12/02 newsletter (not archived)

This is useful information and I enjoyed finding it. I may turn this into an article some day.



Many people have written in to our office since the last newsletter and asked for information on the subject of fighting fair; a topic I mentioned in my December essay. To those of you who are interested, I would recommend an audiocassette by John Bradshaw titled Fighting Fair which is available at (Unfortunately, this valuable information is not available from JB in book form).

Other titles of interest are: “Difficult Conversations: “How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, et al and “Thank You For Being Such a Pain: Spiritual Guidance for Dealing with Difficult People” by Mark I Rosen. I also keep this on my desk at work: “201 Ways for Dealing with Difficult People: A Quick Tip Survival Guide” by Alan Axelrod, Jim Holtje and James Holtje.

This next title will be of great help to anyone leading a Circle, Coven or Group. It is “Antagonists in the Church: How To Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict” by Kenneth Haugh. While the focus is Christian, the information this book contains is useful to anyone who provides spiritual guidance, training or leadership in our community. I first heard about this book from Isaac Bonwitz and I have found it very useful in my own work.

Finally, for those of you who are wondering how your partner, lover, boss, best friend, or self ever got to be the way they are, I would suggest you read this wonderful book: titled “John Bradshaw on The Family. Bradshaw focuses on the dynamics of the family and he explains how the dysfunctional rules and attitudes we learned while growing up can continue to haunt us into adulthood if they are not addressed. He offers practical solutions to help people move from unconscious, dysfunctional behavior to happier, more conscious ways of being. This book has been out for some time, but it has just been updated and re-released. It is a “must read” for anyone attempting to move beyond the lessons they learned growing up in a dysfunctional family or for that matter, in a dysfunctional culture. It comes in both cassette and book form.

Here is a website that gives tips on fighting fair about money issues:

Here is a quiz you can take to see whether you really fight fair or not:

and here are some tips for fighting fair on-line:

Most of us would prefer never to fight with our loved ones. This is understandable. But that if you interact with another person, you are eventually going to be in conflict with them. There is nothing wrong with conflict, per se, the trick is to do it with honesty and integrity. Those who don't fight fair or who can't express their anger in healthy ways tend to build up resentments over time. When people build up too many unspoken resentments, they may eventually come to a point where taking about the problem can no longer heal it.

Avoiding conflict may seem easier in the long run, but people often find that they come away from broken relationships with regrets that can haunt them for years afterward. Some people learn nothing from past relationships and they tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. Not learning from our mistakes and repeating them constantly can be it's own kind of hell. In fact, it's the only kind of hell that I, as a Pagan, believe in.

Unspoken anger can also lead us to drink too much, eat unhealthy food, work to excess, worry ourselves sick or spend too much money. All these unhealthy behaviors are a way of masking and avoiding our problems and they only make the situation worse. Also, the anger we feel towards ourselves or the resentments we feel towards others but don't express can often turn inward and develop into depression. Depression can keep us locked in place and keep us from making the changes we need to make in our lives. Therefore, learning how to express our anger and using it to fight fair can be very liberating, as well as deeply healing.

Learning how to fight fair (like learning how to grieve) is one of those essential tools that most people don't get in their toolbox. (If I had my way, they would teach these skills to kids in elementary school). Learning how to fight fair involves having the courage to make mistakes and to say "I'm sorry" when you do. It means you set your own boundaries about how you choose to be treated. It means that you care enough about someone to be honest with them about how you feel. Finally, it means that you are more interested in doing good then in looking good. Tricky, as the man once said, very tricky.

Anger, as I've said, can be helpful. It is usually our best clue that some part of our self is in danger or that our boundaries are being pushed in ways we aren't comfortable with. It can also help us understand some of our own issues and character defects more fully. Have you ever noticed how people who have our very same character flaws enrage us? It's like looking into a mirror and it can make us very uncomfortable. Seen in this way, anger can be viewed as a difficult gift, as well as a source of great personal insight.

It might help us to think if anger in the same way as we think of the four elements. Anger is like earth, fire, water or air in that it is real and very powerful. Anger has it's own laws and properties and it has to be understood in order for us to use it's inherent energy most effectively. If being a Pagan means that we try to live our lives as fully as we can then dealing with anger and learning to fight fair can be seen as an important part of our spiritual path.

I'll let you know a secret I've learned about anger. It's this: The universe will set things up so that you can practice fighting fair on people who don't matter all that much to you in the greater scheme of things. If we learn how to express our anger towards these people in ways that are respectful, effective and healthy, then we have a much easier time of it when we have to set a boundary with a loved one, a friend, or the boss. But I give you Fair Warning: If we skip these initial lessons because we are too afraid even to try, then we will find that the lessons we are sent as we travel further down the road much, much harder to deal with. Therefore, I have found it helps to take a moment and let that rude salesperson know how I feel (calmly, firmly and politely). Then I silently bless them for giving me the opportunity to practice fighting fair. Of course, I also take the time to compliment people when they do a good job. That kind of thing has to go both ways to be truly fair.

Like any other skill, learning how to fight fair and learning how to express your anger in healthy ways gets better with practice. So hang in there. You'll be glad you did and so will your loved ones.

From the Pagan Bookshelf section of that same newsletter:


In February, the birds begin to choose their mates and build their nests. At that time, our own thoughts may turn to the subject of love. (If you’ve ever wondered why Valentines Day occurs during the month of February, now you know.)

For those of you who are planning a wedding or handfasting ceremony this year there is a new book titled “Magical Weddings: Pagan Handfasting Traditions for Your Sacred Union” by Joy Ferguson. Visit for more information.

For those of you who have partners (whether you are married or not or whether you have more then one partner) I would recommend this book: “Now that I’m Married, Why Isn’t Everything Perfect? The 8 Essential Habits of Couples Who Thrive” by Susan Page. I would also recommend: “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff in Love: Simple Ways to Nurture and Strengthen Your Relationships While Avoiding the Habits That Break Down Your Loving Connection by Richard Carlson and Kristin Carlson.

And as every adult knows, even the most perfect love can be challenged by the subject of money. I would recommend the following books on this subject: “Money Demons: Keep them From Sabotaging Your Relationship and Your Life” by Susan Forward. This is a good book for those of you trying to combine and negotiate finances with a loved one.

For you Pagan Parents who are attempting to teach your children good habits around money and finances, I would recommend these titles: “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: A Parents Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children” by Neal S. Godfrey and Carolina Edwards. Also, “A Penny Saved: Teaching Your Children the Values and Lifeskills They Will Need To Live in the Real World”, this is by Neal S. Godfrey and Ted Richards.

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