By Joe L. Cope
Effective peacemakers invest a great deal of time and effort in helping people become more aware of their personal contributions to the conflict and bringing them to the table with the willingness to take responsibility for resolving the conflict. I have found the concepts of three books to be turning points as I try to teach and mentor individuals in their path to reconciliation.
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box
By The Arbinger Institute
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002
Set in a business context, Leadership and Self-Deception tells the story of Tom Callum, a newly hired executive. As part of a corporate orientation, Tom is drawn into conversation with top officials who gently show him that most problems originate because of self-deception—the inability of a person to see how he or she is part of the problem. While the book makes no spiritual claims, the reader can quickly see parallels with the book of James and its admonitions against pride and discrimination.
Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom
By William Glasser, M.D.
Choice Theory addresses the belief that we are powerless in a conflict situation and provides important advice on how to open conversations and make decisions. For example, Glasser asserts that we should never say, “You made me angry,” because becoming angry is a personal choice we make. By recognizing that freedom of choice, we are allowed to reshape our thinking and our language to more appropriately say, “I became angry because of your behavior.” The shift in emphasis from an attack on the other party to the behavior or the real problem often gives the parties the “safe space” they need to talk through their conflict.
Caveat: Glasser covers a wide range of venues for application of his principles—not all of which are particularly helpful in the church context. However, the instruction on personal choice is worth your effort.
The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How
By Lewis B. Smedes
Ballantine Books, 1997
Knowing how to forgive is a lost art for many of us. Reconciliation is not simply the coming together of two or more people who were in conflict. Indeed, true reconciliation requires untying all of the knots caused by the conflict. Forgiveness is the only force that will allow those knots to loosen. Smedes provides a step-by-step approach to forgiveness that will help the reader understand what is happening and to accept the blessings forgiveness brings.
Many peacemakers (potential or practicing) hesitate because, in spite of their good hearts and passion, they lack training and method. Two easy-to-read manuals, written from the perspective of believers, provide blueprints for peacemaking.
The Mediator’s Handbook
By Jennifer E. Beer with Eileen Stief
New Society Publishers, 1997
This handy guide, developed by the Friends Conflict Resolution Programs, gives a simple but effective overview of mediation—facilitating conflict resolution between two or more parties.
Peace Skills: Manual for Community Mediators
By Ronald S. Kraybill with Robert A. Evans and Alice Frazer Evans
Drawing from their extensive experience helping communities heal from long-term conflict in South Africa, Jakarta, and South America, the authors not only present proven methods but shed light on ways to handle questions of diversity in culture and even religion.
Joey Cope is executive director of the Center for Conflict Resolution at Abilene (Texas) Christian University.