Trying to reconcile broken relationships is a tough job. In conflict, things are said, actions taken, motives judged, offenses given and received and by the time you are finished a great deal of damage has been done. Like divorce: If you were not enemies before the divorce you may well be when the contentious process is concluded. By that time, both parties see one another through a lens of suspicion, mistrust and often anger and even the most innocent actions are seen from a negative perspective. 

There is nothing easy about trying to bring peace to a broken relationship and those who try are to be commended. As Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers! It is a humbling, difficult process that involves our hearts, our minds and our future commitments. To say nothing of the necessity to forgive those who we believe have hurt us badly. In our humanity we want our pound of flesh even if we keep that private. 

In any reconciliation process it seems to me there are six questions that need to be explored. There is no guarantee as you enter such a process that reconciliation will be possible but working through these six questions gives it a chance. 

First: Do I truly want peace with the party I am in conflict with? Our natural response to that is "of course." But that is not necessarily true. Conflict brings with it pain and hurt and in the wake of that conflict it is often more comfortable to nurse our pain than to extend forgiveness for another's actions and ask for forgiveness for our part in the conflict. Often, one or both parties resist any reconciliation because they don't want to contemplate the forgiveness issue. 

Reconciliation is rarely successful until both parties desire to reconcile - to the extent that they can. Often this first question is the most difficult and requires the most work. No matter how bad the conflict, when both parties come to the conclusion they want peace, the outcome is usually positive.

Second: What are the issues? Because conflict creates relational chaos it is necessary to try to identify the issues that created the conflict and the further issues that ocurred during the conflict. Making a list of these issues helps to separate those issues from our emotions and give us a clearer picture of what happened and after it happened how one or both parties contributed to further issues. Usually it takes a third party to walk the two parties in conflict through this exercise - and those that come. 

Having identified the issues the third question: What can be resolved? When you can isolate the issues involved there are usually a number that can be resolved quickly. Often, they include assumptions one party made along the way regarding the actions of the other. Sometimes, a long period of conflict is found to have been the result of a simply misunderstanding that escalated because of incorrect assumptions. If two parties are open and humble, many issues can usually be resolved through honest conversation and careful listening.

The fourth question: What issues cannot be resolved? There are often issues that it is not possible to resolve. Often, because of the lens through which we see the opposing party and our inability to hear or believe their explanation. Sometimes the events are too murky and shrouded in emotion to resolve. This does not mean that these issues will never be resolved but only that they cannot be resolved at this time. Record these and leave them for another day or agree at some point to let them go. 

Question five: Where can forgiveness be extended or asked for? Here is where significant closure starts to take place. When we forgive we give up our offense and when we ask for the same we humble ourselves and admit that we too are fallible. Asking for forgiveness creates an atmosphere that breaks down barriers leading the other party to do the same. Asking and extending forgiveness often breaks the dam of animosity. It also often makes the issues that cannot be resolved mute. They no longer matter because a level of relational peace has been attained. 

Question six flows out of the other five: Can we agree to live in peace and without rancor? This is a decision to cease hostilities and agree to live at peace. This means that we will not speak ill of the other party, that we will no longer nurse anger or resentment and that we will lay down our animosity in exchange for peace. This can be a hard decision even after this process because it requires us to give up the bitterness we have nursed, the attitude of entitlement we have toward the hurt that has been inflicted on us and lay it all down. Like the first question this is an act of the will. 

None of this is easy. It is a choice and a hard choice but it brings amazing freedom and blessing. "Blessed are the peacemakers."

Creating cultures of organizational excellence

  • Jan 08, 2019
  • Category: News
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