As I have increased my peacemaking work, I have had extraordinary opportunities to participate in meetings with people I admire and organizations I respect. These are people with greater experience and following than I have, if not also greater pedigree, intelligence, and other qualities we look for in leaders. It is both humbling and reassuring to work along side them, discovering that they are as human as you or I.
More than once, I have witnessed behavior that shocked and offended my desire for unity and compassion. A highly-skilled alternative dispute resolution professional told a story she thought was “hilarious” because a New York city waiter was rude to and shamed “fat southerners”. (She apparently doesn’t know where I am from or that I have long struggled to keep my weight low.) Additionally, a group of self-proclaimed peacemakers singled out the only male in the room–at a peacemaking event! Then, there was the tentative leader of a “conscious” group who talked about her dislike for a sponsoring organization, which opened the door for more rants about how disgusting the “others” were.
We don’t often see our hypocrisy, and I suspect this is why we aren’t seeing the results we want in some key areas. We might be perpetuating the very behavior we seek to transform. I might even be doing it now.
ACTION ONE: DEFINE THE CONFLICT.
I disagree with those who think they can blame, shame, punish, or hate their way to unity, peace, and love.
ACTION TWO: IDENTIFY THE INTERESTS.
I want people to love each other, to consider their impact on each other, and to show more compassion. I want to be more compassionate, even with those I don’t understand or who I fear. I think we can reconcile our differences and live in peace. I don’t think war or violence is the path to peace. I believe in people, love, and powers greater than mine, even if I don’t understand them, label them, or experience them exactly the same as other people might.
I expect our leaders to exhibit behaviors they want to see in us. I expect them to be mindful of their influence and to call us to behave in ways bigger, stronger, and better than we think we can. I wish we weren’t so fallible, especially me. I have to keep putting my own judgments aside. (Why don’t they?)
ACTION THREE: PLAY WITH THE POSSIBILITIES.
If I could have this conflict resolve in any way possible, I wouldn’t have to lead. I could follow someone else, letting them make the mistakes…like they are doing. They would figure it all out and tell me exactly what to do to succeed…as if that were actually possible!
I’m being a jerk. I can choose to judge those who are leading. I can make them wrong and dismiss them, or I can join and support them where their visions align with mine. I can take my own advice and lead wherever I am.
Ouch. I am sometimes a hypocrite, too.
ACTION FOUR: CREATE THE FUTURE.
- I will respond to my mentor and honor her invitation to discuss my reaction.
- I will continue building skill in hearing even what I don’t like or agree with.
- I will choose my action carefully, considering their impact on others.
- I will choose my inaction carefully, too.
- I will look for the contributions I make to experiences I don’t like. Am I fully present and giving good energy to the group? Am I prepared, or am I draining the group by needing them to accommodate, wait for, question, or take care of me? Am I contributing to my mates, or am I just taking up space? What am I not seeing in the people I am judging? What are their contributions to the group and to the world? How can I be more generous to them and the group? Is this where and how I want to contribute? Are there better fits for each of us?
ACTION FIVE: STAY ON PARR.
I will plan, act, revise, and repeat, until we get the results we want. It can be tiring to pursue a grand vision, such as world peace, unity among races or religious groups, human rights, equal rights, justice, the end of poverty, and more. Yet these are long games in which we shouldn’t expect to rack up many points easily. We have to train for the marathon, even if we hope for a quick sprint to the finish.