Conflict does not mean we are not Christians. The first apostles argued about what committed Christians often disagree on: goals and methods.
Conflict transformation is something more than conflict management or conflict resolution. The goal of conflict transformation, as Ron Kraybill explains, “is not only to end or prevent something bad but also to begin something new and good. Transformation asserts the belief that conflict can be a catalyst for deep-rooted, enduring, positive change in individuals, relationships, and the structures of the human community.”
The work of conflict transformation is not the work of putting Band-Aids on the wounds of conflict, or responding to conflict like a fire fighter. This work is about a way of life and the transformation of our culture to a culture of justpeace.
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“Difficult conversations involve strong emotions or issues about how I see myself in the world,” Stone said. Strong emotions may come from the values a person has and also may be the result of how “people feel treated in the relationship,” he added. “How we talk to each other may influence emotion.”
The conflict must be named before peace can be attained, according to Porter. Sacred space is created around the “table” so that differences, issues, hurts and needs can be aired clearly and directly to overshadow any hidden agendas, he said. “The lack of naming is in part what causes schism,” he said. “I don’t think we have ever had the opportunity to have the full conversation where people can really name the issues that are between us and get below them.”
On one hand, most of us haven’t been taught that conflict need not be feared or avoided, that it is often needed and healthy for a family or congregation. On the other hand, in a society where winning is everything, we often can’t find alternatives to choosing sides, backbiting, beating the opponent into submission or walking away.