I had the extraordinary privilege of taking a course on conflict mediation; it was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. The course was taught at a Quaker community center and followed a very specific curriculum to teach peacemaking. After the class ended, I went on to use what they taught me to help people make peace amidst various conflicts.
Peacemaking is not about finding truth, it’s about finding a path forward. It is not about agreeing to believe the same things, it’s about agreeing to move forward in a unified way. Imagine conflict as one person on each end of a field with a big open space in between; with each person presenting their thoughts, feelings, interests, and beliefs. Their beliefs appear so powerful, so compelling, and so different that they cannot both be true; and through this deliberate process of dialogue the two people come together.
In one mediation I was privy to, one person accused another of stealing. She was sure that the gentleman in question took a prized personal possession, and he was just as adamant that he had not. In another mediation, an employee was sure their supervisor was discriminating against them because she was black. The supervisor was just as adamant that she was just trying to give feedback about some work the employee needed to improve on. In each of these mediations, an agreement to move forward was created; they were unique to the people involved and each left happy.
Peacemaking is the process of finding common interests and getting to ‘yes.’ In peacemaking both parties will move into a space and create an opportunity; both will ‘win’ not necessarily what they expected, but something that is new and good will be the result. The parties in peacemaking are courageous; they agree to go into a room with a mediator and look for help. Peacemaking is hard work but work worthy of working through.
One of the most well know lines from Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible is “blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9) To be blessed is to be happy; to be a peacemaker is to help others find that path to happiness.
I choose to live in faith that as people—we want more than anything to be blessed; and I am very honored to be in a role which calls me to be peacemaker. I hope this year that you will all be blessed, and that your lives will be enriched by peacemaking.