Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When Conflict Actually Increases Community

“The goal in all conflict situations ought to be reconciliation, not retaliation.”
— Kel Willis, Living With You, Living With Me
TRUTH is a powerful biblical principle. We are to worship in the Spirit and in the truth (John 4:24). God desires truth in our inward being, and we can pray for such wisdom from a humble heart (Psalm 51:6). We know that the truth, once it is acknowledged, endures forever (Proverbs 12:19). And a truthful witness saves lives (Proverbs 14:25). Finally, we are urged to ‘buy’ truth and not to sell it; not to waste it or not value it (Proverbs 23:23).
Truth is most important in conflict. Not one person’s truth opposed to the other, but the truth. The truth is some midway point; points apart from one person’s perspective or the other’s.
In a previous career my job would often be to analyse incidents. The way I would do this was to get a room full of people, diverse within the organisation, stakeholders in the event, and seek truth. My first step would be to write up on a whiteboard the chronology of what took place by asking those assembled. What always happened, without fail, was assumptions were checked and only the facts remained. What also happened as a result was a room full of people left those meetings agreeing at least on what took place. This was an astounding result. Community had been enjoyed. And some relationships of people who hardly knew one another beforehand were steeled in the dynamics between persons that started at such a meeting as this; for reconciliation.
What made reconciliation possible in the analysis of incidents, above, was that the issues were tackled very early — within hours or days — while it was still fresh in people’s minds, and before the situation festered. I always made the connection that truth would prevent further incidents. Nobody wanted more people hurt. The communities assembled always worked well together when a common goal for goodness could be seen.
When there is no common goal, anarchy flourishes; the community is rent asunder and there is division even from within the self.
Retaliation is always the result when we don’t view conflict as a thing to be negotiated within community; a thing important for the community. Conflict comes about in community — at least two people are required for conflict — and, so, it ought to be resolved in community.
One thing our communities need is the ability to mend our relationships so we can keep trust and respect strong.
If we don’t resolve our conflicts there are parts of us that die from within us as the caustic corrosiveness of bitterness takes root.
When conflict is embraced in community, conflict actually increases community, and we see faith grow. Suddenly, it is known by experience; there is great safety in a community where respectful challenges are encouraged, accepted and embraced.
A culture where truth is nurtured at the forefront is a culture of health in community.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

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