Human conflict in this season of peace

Published 2:44 pm Thursday, December 24, 2009

In this season of peace, let us reflect a moment on human conflict. Conflict is an inevitable part of the human experience, according to Harry Goodheart, a Tryon friend who makes a living handling seemingly intractable mediation cases all over the East Coast. As old as mankind, the clash is felt not only between us but also within each of us.

Conflict is neither good nor bad. It spurs change. Our reaction determines negative or positive value. We can avoid, cast blame, come to impasse, give in, compromise, or compete. When its all or nothing, positions become more important than relationships, trust is gone and communication becomes incendiary. Its us and them.

Behavioral science, Harry says, confirms what we see everywhere: Emotion always trumps intellect. When we feel our basic needs are unmet the process is unfair, our voices are unheard only emotion pounds in our ears.

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Reviewing a decade of local news, we see more than a fair share of human conflicts. The processes used, certainly never perfect, span the range. Many attempted best practices, designed by the parties, reaching out, surveying, meeting, talking. Even these most often ended up at impasse and blame. It seems at times as though we have adopted a system of reward by tantrum, leaving little hope for rational community conflict resolution.

Harry tells a story of how the wise men in the Japanese mountain villages hundreds of years ago would offer their hut to parties in conflict. The parties would arrive, bow,&bsp; sit and tell their dispute to one another. When they left, the conflict was resolved. The process had always worked, and it was their belief which made it so again.

The key, Harry says, is this: the resolution must be so exciting that everyone wants to participate. We celebrate that kind of excitement in Jesus, who so attracts us, that by faith alone, his life offers us hope that human conflict can actually be resolved. Pray his peace will guide us. JB