As some of you will know, I have been given the privilege of taking a 10-month Sabbatical to read and write. As I write this blog I am sitting in a small room in my apartment here in Germany, overlooking some red tile roofs and beyond them, the hills of the local forest. During this time, I will still be connected to ARC but from a distance. In addition, I will be using these months to explore Biblical and theological perspectives with regards to conflict. Over the years I have noticed that while much has been written regarding the theological foundation behind peace-building work and while there is significant literature with respect to the how-to of conflict resolution, there is relatively little about this area of research I am pursuing. I am looking forward to this time of exploration and renewal. I hope to keep you posted via this blog.
Now for my rant: What follows is what I do intend not to do with my writing. 🙂
Again and again, in one scholarly article after another, I encounter authors who put down every idea that has come before them in order to build up their idea as the one that is right and presumably, that will last. Conflict transformation vs. conflict resolution, appreciative inquiry vs. problem based approaches to change, transformative mediation vs. problem solving mediation, community wisdom vs. leadership wisdom, restorative justice vs. retributive justice… One doesn’t need to look far to see this type of either / or way of presenting the world. In fact, this appears to be an all too common trap that finds its parallels in the most difficult of conflicts to resolve.
Have we not seen the same in history as well? New movements (whether social, political or religious) emerge and arise in an effort to be different from the movement that has gone before rather than drawing from and building on the learning of that which has gone before. The consequences are often disastrous. While the new movement has life and for a time creates excitement, over time it encounters both its inherent limitations and the barriers created by hubris, only to fall into destructive behavior or to be supplanted by yet another “new” movement.
As practitioners of conflict resolution/ transformation we know that when it comes to finding our way forward in the context of two or more perspectives, the answer is typically not found in seeing one side as all right and the other side as all wrong. Indeed, it is in the discovery of truth from multiple angles that we find the most enduring resolutions (or should I say, transformations?). The dilemma here is a much deeper one than simply semantics. It pierces through to the very heart of how we see the world. Is old always bad and new always good? Am I always right and you always wrong? Of course the answer to both questions is “no” yet the either/or view of the world generates and emerges from this very way of thinking.
The Catholic priest and teacher Richard Rohr has famously said that as we mature in our spiritual walk we discover that “everything belongs” – every experience, every truth and even every falsehood are all somehow a part of the whole in which we live and through which God finds us. As we discover that we – in our incompleteness – are also a part of this whole, our eyes are opened to the deep truth, gift and wisdom in others, who like us are incomplete but a part of this same whole.
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Betty Pries has more than 20 years of experience coaching, mediating, training and consulting in the areas of conflict resolution and change. Betty's work with churches and church organizations is guided by her desire to enhance their spiritual and organizational health, and strengthen the capacities of leadership to discern a way forward.