“Let it begin with me.” St. Francis of Assisi
The images all over the news are disturbing: Riots, beheadings, crime and families hurting. At times, it can feel insurmountable and as if we are too small to have any impact. Then, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr. One man, huge impact. Or Irene Sendler, the nurse who saved 2500 babies in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland, during WWII. Every important change starts with one person.
Change needs to begin with each of us, and we are assisted by looking to what the Church teaches about conflict resolution and what skills we need to start working at solutions, rather than focusing on differences and problems.
1/ Pray. Before we enter into any situation where conflict is possible (probably) we need to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gifts of wisdom, understanding and counsel in all the conversations we will have.
2/ Find common ground. Even two completely diverse individuals or groups can find something they agree on. Start with the idea and build. For example, in areas with racial tensions we can all agree that we love our kids, want a better world for them and that there are problems with perception and communication. Once we have agreed on that we can discuss different ways to address the differences we face.
3/ Focus on the dignity of each individual. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) emphasizes that we need to see the dignity of each individual, in that God Himself created them. Respect is tied to seeing that dignity (1944). The CCC states that each person is given different gifts and that we are entrusted with those gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. It reminds us that these gifts make us different and are not distributed equally (1934-35).
4/ Share our gifts. Whether our gifts are spiritual or financial, we are called to share them. The CCC states that we are to reduce “excessive social and economic inequalities.” We are encouraged to get rid of ‘sinful inequalities’; this will help us in working towards social justice. Focusing on what a sinful inequality is (right to life vs abortion, excessive wealth vs poverty) and discussing solutions to those issues, rather than points of view about those issues, can help diffuse difficult discussions.
5/ Use Steps for Conflict Resolution! Many people think conflict will just dissipate on its own, and that is rarely the case. Researching steps to Conflict Resolution and utilizing them can provide a framework in which to work. The American Management Association* puts out the following steps:
A/Identify the source of conflict.
B/Look beyond the incident.
D/Identify solutions both disputants can support.