Charles Robinson Sr., a mediator, college professor, former administrative law judge and member of Pastors United, writes about an approach that can repair relationships and forestall violence.
Many of the homicides we are experiencing in Milwaukee are unresolved conflicts turned to rage. It is said that most problems in life are based on misunderstanding and misperception. The unresolved dispute or “beef” with someone many times turns deadly resulting in a senseless loss of life. Instead of holding grudges, we can change the context for what happened from being a victim into an opportunity for repairing harm and transforming relations.
When something goes wrong in our relationships, we can take responsibility to repair them. Any problem in life can be resolved within the context of a conversation. Being willing to listen to the other side gives us access to restoring the integrity necessary for good working relationships.
During the Rwanda genocide in 1994, 800,000 to one million human beings were killed. My friend Dr. Lorraine Warren, a researcher and conflict manager, found that survivors and killers are living together and healing because they have learned to listen deeply and forgive.
The true meaning of the concept of “forgive” is to give as you did before. So, the word “forgive” is linguistically inverted. Forgive implies that all human beings are naturally related. Whenever we give to one another, we also receive. However, when something is said or done which breaks those natural lines of relating, we cannot give and receive as we did before. To quote The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King:
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
In my 32 years of mediation practice, I have found that when there is a relationship breakdown, what is missing for one party is often missing for the other. This is especially true in family matters and domestic disputes. My position as mediator places me in the middle of the storm, which allows me to see this very clearly. When meeting with parties separately, they actually say that what’s missing for each one, in the relationship, is the same.
When one is willing to give up the “beef,” peace is possible for all. However, if the perceived context is “victim,” one may justifiably and self-righteously transform to perpetrator. Managing the context is critical and empowering, which provides the strength to forgive.
Once the breach is repaired, individuals involved in the dispute will be able to “give” and receive… as they did “before.” When angry, think GRAB (Give/Receive As Before) the opportunity to repair the harm for workability and peace. It might even save a life.