Thursday, February 12, 2009

And In This Corner...

...is a true believer. And in this other corner is another true believer. They both truly believe...the other person is wrong!

A few years ago I was asked to help mediate a conflict between people in another church. They called us -- an attorney in our church and me -- to help them sort out the mess. I thought it was a high honor. Until we rendered a prayerful opinion and both sides were mad at us! We escaped without tar and feathers, but were loathe to sign up for a repeat performance.

I left there with a new understanding: some people don't want to reconcile their relationships. They just want to win!

Part of my role these days is again that of mediator. Usually I am helping people who see different sides of an issue truly hear each other and find a way to work together. Here are a few principles that have assisted me along the way...

1. Both sides have valuable perspectives. Most conflict arises when people see things one way and can't imagine a thinking person disagreeing with them. The checks and balances of the United States political system is a great lesson here. The older I get, the more I grimace at the blinders I wore in earlier years. I have withdrawn from the belief that politics can provide significant, helpful change. Consequently, I see more clearly how people from both persuasions are quick to point out the flaws in leaders of the opposition and overlook the exact foibles in their own heroes!

2. Both sides of a conflict need to be heard. It's great when they can sit and genuinely listen to each other, but neutral, outside help is often necessary.

3. The people on both sides need to be valued. When mediating, I do this by focusing my attention on each person's strengths, rather than their weaknesses. I teach this to married couples by explaining, "If you agree with each other on everything all the time, one of you isn't necessary!"

4. The mediator(s) must be neutral. The purpose of mediation is to reconcile. It often requires compromise on both sides of the table. The last thing needed is a mediator who has a personal agenda in the outcome.

After his First Missionary Journey, the apostle named Paul got into a passionate disagreement with his ministry partner -- a man named Barnabas. History seems to indicate that they both softened as they aged and they finally reconciled years later. In the meantime, the movement of establishing new churches continued like wildfire.

The sad reality is that such potent disagreement has often ended up far more negatively. I constantly meet people who got caught in the crossfire during "church wars" and simply walked away from the Body of Christ.

That's one of the reasons I am so passionate to be an instrument of healing.

Where do you fit?

1 comment:

Contest Chris said...

Right on Sam. I've never been much of a mediator, but I do try to remember the difference between having an open mind and just being tolerant. To me, an open mind is not simply accepting that another has a different opinion; that's tolerance. An open mind is accepting that opinion might be right. Course, that is just my opinion. Good to "blog" you again, Sam.