An Alternative Conversation Project

The last few weeks have been dominated by the United States political process. ¬†We have watched as individuals launch into scorching tirades about the candidates and their positions. We’ve then been subjected to those who opine about the stupidity of those who launch into scorching tirades — thus, becoming as offensive as the original commentators.

We have witnessed the phenomenon of escalation as people’s hands hover over the “REACT” button — always seeking to be one-up or smarter or cuter or, even, more hateful.

Then there are the multitudes of people, including me, who ask people to be considerate. To some extent, our efforts simply add to the escalation. Others don’t want me telling them how to behave. The “REACT” button gets punched again.

So, why don’t others listen to rationale, well-meaning people like me?

Simple. I don’t really offer them anything positive in return.

What if we did offer something?

I’m convinced that people can talk civilly about issues and interests without attacking each other. The question is, “How is that best done?”

I am collecting ideas on an alternative conversation project — a different way to talk when we have diverse opinions and even beliefs. We trust that this could be a safe forum for sharing interests, explaining positions, and generating possible solutions.

What do you think? What would this look like? How could be be involved?

We want to hear from you. Please send your ideas to copej@acu.edu. I’ll be sharing these ideas on PeaceBytes.org and through the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution at Abilene Christian University.

I Want to Win

As much as I tell myself not to be concerned over who wins or who loses, I am concerned.

I try to show no emotion when I see others speed past me on the freeway, knowing that their intention is to push into my lane and delay my journey. Yet, I can feel my blood boil a bit.

I claim to be no great fan of sports. But I root for those teams I don’t claim publicly yet do secretly support.

The fact is, I want to win. I like to win.

I have friends who like to win, as well. Most handle it with dignity and respect. After all, a good healthy spot of competition can be invigorating and can even strengthen relationships between players and fans.

I worry some about other friends who like to win. Their “liking” to win evolved somewhere into “living” to win. The change of that one little letter is not a subtle change. It’s big.

Mediators see people whose lives have become burdened with the need to win — to prove that they are right, others are wrong, and that the scales of justice always tilt their way. Unfortunately, a steady diet of “I want to win” can be transformed into an “I deserve to win” attitude. When that happens, judgment becomes cloudy. Even when we are wrong and others are right, the quest to tilt the scales of justice in our favor doesn’t lessen.

The desire to win can blind us from reason and rational decisions. Even more disturbing is its ability to mask our emotions to the point that they aren’t recognizable. Self-promotion allows us to justify ourselves and vilify our opponents.

So, am I advocating a complacent, no-win attitude?

Not at all. What I struggle with in my life is not so much the need to win, but the need to be content.

I will have moments of victory where I compete and I win. If I’ve played fairly and if I have a heart of humility, those will be sweet times.

However, there will be other days when I’ve worked hard and yet I see others moving ahead of me. Those are the days I can win again through my contentment. I can be content, even in last place, if I view my life through what I’ve gained instead of what I’ve lost.

Helping others gain this same view is difficult. Peacemakers share the concept most effectively through actions, their own humility, and their willingness to be open to contentment.