The Starting Point

Every movement has a starting point.

When the ball began to spin or the wheel began to roll, a burst of energy surged or, in some cases, a source of energy died. In some of these moments, the change was hard to miss and, in others, the change was negligible. Yet, there was a change.

Sometimes forces combine to instigate the movement. Each force contributes in its unique way. Without one or the other, the evolving motion would look differently. Every push or pull has meaning and those who join the movement are best served when all forces are recognized and valued.

A movement has started. Increasing clamor has invaded our safe places as friends, neighbors, and enemies have recognized that change is imminent. Importantly, all have felt fear at the thought that the change that is coming is not welcome change.

In truth, because of the state of constant change, much of our apprehension is misplaced. Things rarely are entirely as we would want them. And, when that is so, we adjust. We make decisions and take actions that alleviate our fears and calm our nerves. We call this exercise “living.” We navigate life pretty well for the most part.

But our fears of war, economic downturns, loss of future opportunities, and challenges to personal determination and safety seem different this time. Perhaps it’s an effect of pervasive media. Or maybe it is the awesome and awful perception that forces have been set in motion that will truly bring devastation to the life we want for ourselves and for others.

Whatever it is, a growing feeling is that our leaders have lost the ability to converse and reason together. We, as both individuals and a people, are retreating to an identity defined by our position on various topics. We are becoming known for “what we want” instead of “who we are.” When that happens, understanding the viewpoint of others is sacrificed on the altar of self.

Life was never intended to be this way. In simpler times, people disagreed – but they gathered and talked and rearranged their lives to compensate for diversity of thought and deed.

S-b Logo.001For several months we have been asking you to consider joining a movement that will make a difference for you, your family, your friends, and even those who oppose what you want or need or dream. The Better Understanding Project (the “S/b Project”) is an initiative from the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution to provide guidance and real-life tools to engage and embrace those who differ from us, to come to an understanding of what they think and why they think it, and to chart a course of reasonable response.

We are asking that you commit to that movement today. You can be a force in bringing change to the world. We’re not asking you to commit to a particular worldview or even a neighborhood view that differs from the one you now see. We are simply asking that you seek a better understanding before you settle in intractable positions. We are asking you to listen, to express yourself, and to influence or be influenced. Regardless, we want you to be the decision maker for your life. And, we will provide you with a guide and perhaps even the opportunities to accomplish that in a responsible way.

The starting point – the moment of commitment – is before you. Will you be known as a person who seeks better understanding?

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You don’t have to pay membership dues or take a pledge or even make eye contact to be a part of the Better Understanding Project. However, if you feel the need for your commitment to be known, please let us hear from you today. You can leave a comment here or you can email us at conflictresolution@acu.edu.

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Be Double-Edged

If you’ve decided to be a peacemaker, you’ve chosen a life of interruptions.

Oddly, we choose this path because of our desire for calm and ease, both for ourselves and others. Yet our calling pulls us into the middle of strife, tension, and almost constant change. Fatigue, frustration, and even fear can creep into our thoughts — draining our energy and our motivation to provide a safe space for reason, understanding, agreement, and reconciliation.

IMG_0087Such strain and such drain can squelch the spirit of the peacemaker.

Resolve to be double-edged in your approach to conflict resolution and reconciliation.

Don’t become lost in your dreams for tranquility. You must also find strength and protection in self-care. Surround yourself with other peacemakers. Don’t be too proud to seek and accept their help with your personal struggles.

Peacemaking is not a solitary effort. By its very nature, peace forms groups of people into a community focused on the common welfare of all — even those with whom we disagree.

As you face the road ahead, accept the responsibility of blessing others with your gifts of peace. But, never forget that the balance that enables you to continue and flourish in your work demands that you accept blessings even as you give them.

Be double-edged, both giving and accepting blessings in every deed. Bless and be blessed in this new year!

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Something Should be Said

My designated time for writing this morning passed without a single word making it’s way to my computer screen.

For days, I have listened to people talk about the massacre at Newtown and I have been grateful for their eloquence and their grace.

During those same days, I have felt my stomach turn as others have belligerently talked of “rights” that are being challenged or of “rights” that need to be challenged in the political issues that invariably surface in times like these.

Still others have spoken of the deeper societal problems that gave rise to this tragedy and to other violent episodes. Mental health, school security, and family dysfunction are popular and trending topics.

Then there are those who quietly focus on the victims and the potential lost by lives cut short in a horrendous moment.

I watch all of this and I think, “Something should be said.”

But for the last five hours, I couldn’t come up with those words.

On Sunday, in another place, I wrote of an answer that speaks to my spiritual beliefs. And while I put great weight in that answer, I know that many who don’t share my beliefs find no solace there. To those people, something should be said.

To people who have suffered loss of loved ones and setbacks in life, something should be said.

To people who struggle to function because they are paralyzed by fear, something should be said.

Determined to say something, I have only three words . . .

  • “I will listen.”

Voices spring up all around us. Each and every individual is struggling to find a voice to express their frustration, their grief, and their indignation. That’s what I’ve been doing this morning.

And all that I can find to say is . . .

  • “I will listen.”

Listening involves waiting . . . giving space . . . analyzing content . . . savoring feelings. In a time of woundedness, focused and caring attention is needed. Listening is a balm that can soothe an anxious soul.

As we listen, we will hear angry words. We will hear good ideas. We will hear some of the most outrageous and hateful thoughts imaginable.

Sometimes, we will listen in silence . . . to silence.

clasped handsIn times like these, something should be said. Perhaps we should fold our hands and let our first words be . . .

“I will listen.”

 

The Better Understanding Project

I want to challenge you to do something radical.

Consider hearing more than you want to hear and seeing more than you want to see.

Commit to looking for the meaning in the words and behavior in those around you. Not for what you what you want to see or hear. But for what was meant.

Sometimes that’s as simple as asking, “What did you mean?” Often it’s more an exercise of trying to grasp what the other person is feeling.

My colleagues at the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution want to help people learn those skills and encourage them to practice them. That’s why we are initiating the “Better Understanding Project.”

Over the next few months, we will be offering tips, techniques and motivational strategies for people who want to get beyond the inane arguments of politics, religion, and frankly, daily pettiness that seem to dominate our lives. There is a better existence — and it is available on every level of life.

Do you find yourself frustrated with family members or co-workers? Have you felt your blood pressure rise when you hear ideas and opinions that differ from yours? Are people becoming the object of your anger? Have you ever caught yourself in a rage over something and then realize you really don’t know the issues involved?

If you said “yes” to any of these questions . . . you are infected with a fairly large dose of normalcy.

But normalcy isn’t what most of us want for our lives. We want something higher and nobler and radical.

Consider the possibilities!

. . . . . . . . . .

Look for the “Better Understanding” logo. The Duncum Center is beginning some changes to its online presence, so you may run into some construction. So, for the time being, we will post the “Better Understanding” articles on both this site and on the Duncum Center blog site.

In the meantime, begin your own explorations of what it takes to better understand those around you. You’ll be surprised how much better you will be understood, in turn.

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