This is a photo of me as a “Fighting Gamecock” USC fan, not of my leadership style! This week has been spent in a Lombard Mennonite Peace Center “Conflict Mediation” Seminar. Well, that’s a mouthfull, but the training has been good. Conflict can even be good, “Iron sharpens iron,” says the Psalmist, but it’s tough work to look for the good in a stressful situation.
As a District Superintendent I spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with people who want me to “straighten out their preacher.” Sometimes they might be right, but I know enough about Edwin Freidman and Murray Bowen (I hope) to not buy into their triangulation. I hope to be non-reactive and stay objective as I mediate. For me, that means cutting down on my facial expressions, no nods up or down, and mostly grunts and innocuous words that state that I have been listening adequately to both sides.
This is exhausting. But community is worth the effort. Scott Peck’s book on peacemaking A Different Drummer has long been a favorite. He sums up life, church, work, and home, etc. as falling somewhere on a continuum between the following stages of community: pseudocommunity, chaos, emptiness, and real community. Some want to avoid conflict and stay in a fake community. To get to real community you have to dare to confront, speaking the truth in love through emptiness.
I hope to do better at listening to people, being objective, empowering people to come to the table and work through their differences. To do it, I’ve got to nail my feet to the floor, and maybe superglue my mouth shut. The main thing is to love, love, love; and listen, listen, listen. Every day is an adventure.