Be the Duck!

What kind of terrible motto is that?! When you envision or imagine your “spirit animal”, it’s probably a lion or eagle or something, right? Usually, I’m trying harder to “Be the Duck!”

CC by Bruno Monginoux
CC by Bruno Monginoux

My wife and I were expecting our first child before we were married. In fact, I wasn’t quite out of high school. When my future father-in-law called me over to his house, I was less than excited.

The entire experience is a bit of a blur now. Understandably, he was boiling. Inches from my face, he vented his rage and disappointment. He has confirmed that the slightest aggression from me would have invited a very physical confrontation.

But I didn’t flinch. Accepting responsibility for our poor choices and thoughtlessness, I did my best to convey my intention to remain involved and make the best decisions for my child. In the shadow of that conflict, service and communication breakdowns in my daily walk seem minuscule.

My frequent admonishment to my wife and friends is to emulate (see what I did there?) the duck. You can gain greater peace and more effectively manage conflict if you’ll:

  • Oil Your Feathers: Ducks are almost always preening. Other birds do this, too, pulling oil from a gland through the feathers as they groom themselves and pull their feathers into optimal position. Because ducks know they’ll eventually get back in the water, they are always waterproofing their feathers. Conflict is a natural part of life; you’d better be oiling your feathers.
  • Let it Roll: Picture this: it’s freezing cold, the ducks are all hunkered down, and here comes the rain. If the rain and ice got to the ducks’ bare flesh, they could freeze to death! But because the ducks have oiled their feathers, preparing for this reality, the rain rolls right off. The ducks know they’re vulnerable! But by protecting the warm down feathers and the bare skin beneath, they are insulated from the sting of the rain. You’ve got weak spots; you’d better be protecting them.
  • Shake it Off: After a dip in the pond or a heavy rain, what do you see almost every animal do? Shake it off! The story of that garage conversation is intensely personal, and carries the greatest lesson of all: your relationships must progress regardless. No matter how uncomfortable our confrontation got, I knew that this man would be the grandfather of my child. If I was going to continue a relationship with my future wife, he would also be my father-in-law. It isn’t easy, but shaking off conflict after it is resolved or the steam has blown off is crucial to your success.

Maybe you have a job and relationships that never involve conflict. I wouldn’t trade you for the world! When properly navigated, conflict actually builds better relationships and develops character. When you encounter conflict, you could roar like a lion (“I’m the king of the jungle!”), but it’s much better to “be the duck!”


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