“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”
Jesus, in Luke 19:42
I pray that as you read this post you are safe and well in your home, with your needs met, not facing a horrific loss of income, and perhaps even enjoying some extra time to rest.
I do not believe that God caused this pandemic. I’m not happy about the suffering it has brought. I’m deeply concerned for the loss of lives and livelihoods.
But as one who is committed to peacemaking, I also see an amazing opportunity for us to learn some of the key principles of conflict transformation:
Before the pandemic, we Americans were celebrating a robust economy and record unemployment. Now all of that has been wiped out overnight.
The coronavirus has shown us that we humans are not the “masters of our fate.” There are things we don’t know. There are forces we can’t control. There are realities that are bigger than us.
Our best-laid plans, our proudest achievements, can be destroyed just like that.
As Rich Mullins sang, “We are not as strong as we think we are.”
Humility is one of the keys to conflict transformation. It takes humility to listen … to understand … to value other people’s concerns … to treat others as you would like to be treated. It takes humility to swallow my pride and forgive.
As we live through this pandemic, will we learn the lesson of humility?
That’s Arbinger Institute’s term for thinking beyond yourself and appreciating the needs, concerns and challenges of others.
And we are seeing tons of powerful examples of that during this pandemic.
Landlords canceling rent. Basketball stars paying the salaries of furloughed stadium workers. Online services giving free subscriptions. Neighbors helping neighbors. People ordering take-out to support their favorite restaurant—and then giving the food to someone else.
Healthcare workers—some of our society’s best examples of an outward mindset—being hailed as superheroes.
People are paying way more attention to the needs and concerns of others. The outward mindset has become “cool.”
And that’s one of the keys to conflict transformation. An inward mindset says that my needs, objectives, and challenges are all that matters. That leads to conflict.
When I turn my mindset outward, I begin to see that the other person’s needs are at least as important as mine.
And if I can adopt that mindset in the midst of a conflict, I can work towards resolution.
Will the outward mindsets we’re seeing right now continue beyond the pandemic?
It’s amazing how quickly we can learn new skills, change the way we think, adopt new courses of action, and do things we never dreamed we would do when our priorities change.
Think of all the churches that have gone digital overnight.
Think of all the technophobes who have learned how to use Facebook and Zoom.
Think of all the grocery stores that have set up face shields and one-way aisles.
Think of all the nice restaurants who are now majoring in take-out and delivery.
Think of a Republican-majority senate passing a bill to give away money! And a Republican president signing it!
I’m not bashing Republicans. It’s just that the party of lower taxes and limited government has not traditionally been known for being on the side of government handouts.
But right now, they are. Why? Because priorities have changed.
This pandemic has shown us that we are fully capable of changing our behavior in the light of new priorities.
So what if we decided that PEACE is a priority?
What if we decided that RELATIONSHIPS are a priority?
What if we decided that the priority in a conflict is not to win at all costs, but to learn new skills, change the way we think, and adopt courses of action that produce an outcome that is beneficial to both sides?
Before you say, “Oh, that won’t work,” take a look around. This pandemic has shown that we are perfectly capable of doing exactly that.
It’s just a matter of priorities.
As in, this pandemic is one of the few things in human history that has impacted everyone.
What’s the phrase we keep hearing? “We’re all in this together.” It’s almost become a cliché, but that’s only because it’s so true. Take a moment to feel the weight of those words.
What if we thought this way all the time—not just during a pandemic?
Coronavirus has revealed our common humanity. No one is immune. Everyone is at risk.
We are more alike than different.
One of the keys to conflict transformation is looking for what you share in common with the other side.
An example: PeacePlayers is an organization that brings together young people in war-torn areas throughout the world and helps them find common ground through playing basketball. Young people in the Middle East, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and the toughest inner cities in America are learning to see their natural enemies as fellow human beings.
How? By focusing on what they have in common—their love of basketball.
This common ground gives them a safe place to stand when they begin to work through their differences.
Horrible as it is, the coronavirus has given the human race an amazing piece of common ground to stand on. “We’re all in this together.” We’re more alike than different.
Will we remember that when the pandemic is over?
Humility. Outward Mindset. Priorities. Everyone.
Important keys to conflict transformation. Things that make for peace.
Forgive me for this bit of hokeyness, but you’ve probably realized that those spell HOPE.
There’s HOPE in the midst of this crisis. If we can recognize “the things that make for peace.”