Seeing Conflict As an Opportunity – Peacemaking Wisdom

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    When tragedy strikes it is a normal response to ask where is God in this? Possibly the commonest tragedy in life is the travesty-of-heart individuals experience when in conflict. But, as we have learned through resurrection out of grief, conflict likewise is an opportunity too good to pass up.

    My wife and I have undertaken a journey with the peacemaking organisation, PeaceWise. And recently I was invited to become a trainer in peacemaking wisdom as part of the national PeaceWise team.

    Peacemaking challenges the way we view results. It views the relationship as primary, results as secondary, given that, from a leadership viewpoint, people care about results only when they know we care about them.

    Peacemaking is a challenge to the way we view ‘results’.

    Not everyone means what we would say they mean. When we hear someone say something or we read their words, we do so through our own filters, never realising that our perception and their intention are two entirely different things. We assume we know, when it is always wise to check.

    Not everyone means what we would say they mean.

    The causes of conflict are the predictable misunderstandings we have, our differing values and interests, and competition over resources, poor relational skills, and our sinful attitudes and desires (see James 4:1-2).

    The closer we get to someone, the more likely it is that conflict will fracture our collaboration.

    If we’re honest, our aims in conflict are not to view it as an opportunity to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be more like Christ. Our honest aims, that reveal the idols of our heart, are 1) conquest – how can I win? and/or 2) comfort – how can I quickly and most easily get through this?

    When we put outcomes second in our relationships, we can know the Father better.

    Conflict is a discipleship growth tool. We’re shaped by conflict. Growth hurts.

    Every minute is valuable from the context of discipleship.

    Questions that grow us up:

    How can I live through this conflict and make God known?

    How to I bless and serve those who make me feel uncomfortable?

    What’s God up to in this ‘bad’ or uncomfortable moment?

    Can we contemplate an approach that says, ‘Even if you kill me I will die loving you’? – this is not referring to the actual practice of murder nor does it condone any form of violence.

    Faith is about abiding and depending, in living a bewilderingly different way.

    There is more potential to become more like Jesus in the terrible moment than in the wonderful moment.

    The natural trajectory of conflict is not restoration but destruction. We must become a community tenacious for peace.

    When we put outcomes second to the relationship it’s an opportunity to know our Father better.

    It’s no good pretending it didn’t happen, however small it was.

    Assisted peacemaking (mediation, adjudication, accountability) requires the trust of those these processes serve.

    Peacemaking is less about being right than it is about being in relationship.

    To bring peace into the realm of conflict we must start with God.

    We may not ordinarily see behaviour as a material issue, but behaviour can be a material issue.

    Overlooking an offence is not always about denial or flight. The key test is, ‘Am I preoccupied about this matter?’ If our minds are not preoccupied, the matter is probably something we can overlook.

    Jesus calls us to be wheat among the weeds, so let’s be as ‘wheaty’ as we can be.

    It must be my modus operandi to endeavour to understand and bless those not like me.

    Conflict invites us to move from comfort and conquest to Christ. Conflict makes us uncomfortable or it blocks our conquest, but neither of these is as important as making God known.

    In conflict we must address the tension involved in the fear of hurting the other person as we redemptively confront the issue.

    Abusive people weaponise vulnerability.

    Will we insist on eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or will we partake in the tree of life? The former insists on right and wrong, while the latter seeks life and the abundance of life in relationships. The former is a small vision, the latter is a vision the size of the universe.

    When the person we are in conflict with offers us solidarity they are inviting us to know them better, and their generosity is a blessing, and a win-win situation is in the offing.

    People who operate out of wisdom partake of the tree of life, and they exemplify generosity of spirit.

    Forgiveness is an invitation into the Father’s deeper revelation. Forgiveness always takes a deeper into the Father. This is because forgiveness requires more of us than we initially contemplated.

    The deeper wisdom of conflict as there is always something more important than the conflict. The conflict is merely symptomatic of a deeper cause, and the wise discern the need to understand.

    In conflict we must learn to say, ‘I need more trust, more hope, more generosity, more faith.’

    If my good desire is not met, I am tempted to demand that it be met, and if my demand is not met, I begin to operate out of the attitude of judgment, and very soon my behaviour punishes the person who has not met the good desire that has become a demand. This is the progression of an idol.

    With people we are in conflict with, we have a backpack of stones, with each disagreement resembling one stone. With each genuine apology received, the commensurate stone need not be thrown. It is taken out of the backpack because it is appeased. But without genuine apology those stones are kept stowed just in case.

    A good apology represents me well, to the point that the person being apologised to can see me. It opens up a fresh start to the relationship.

    When it comes to apology, God already knows, and He’s already paid for it. It doesn’t get much safer than that, so just get on with it. Be generous. Make the apology. Get it done.

    Asking for someone’s forgiveness places us in a position of vulnerability, which is always an investment in relationship.

    In conflict, we must learn to remind ourselves that, ‘If I knew everything they knew, I would respond to this differently.’

    Very often the most important thing a person says in a stressful situation is the last thing they say, which is also the hardest thing for them to say, which explains why it comes last. It is necessary to allow enough silence to enable the hard thing to be said.

    Speaking the truth in love is about speaking the truth in a way they know I love them.

    The interests that underpin the issue and the positions people take are the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. We cannot sort out the ‘what’ until we understand the ‘why’. Negotiators must know this.

    God’s Kingdom is not about lavish forgiveness for me and stingy forgiveness for you. It is all lavish forgiveness.

    We are not called to forgive and forget. We must forgive but we cannot forget.

    Forgiveness means I carry no more resentment.

    It doesn’t mean I permit further abuse.

    Forgiveness is about reaching out to others who are fallen like we are. We are no better than they are.

    To forgive generously you enter the Great Forgiveness.

    The Great Forgiveness is the forgiveness of God.

    The ‘replacement principle’ of Philippians 4:8 is the secret to all success in the land of virtue.

    People in pain don’t want to talk to people who aren’t trustworthy.

    When all else fails we need to recalibrate our love, to lower our standards of love, so that we may simply love.

    Acknowledgement to Steve Frost, a peacemaking guru I’ve been blessed to work with.