Ramblings of an Old Flower Child: Forgiveness in Conflict
I yearn for the gentler times of the past, when kids felt safe going ‘trick or treating’ door to door and people had the right to life and liberty. Now kids go to well lit malls for Halloween out of fear of razor blades in apples. People have dangerous, controlling and invasive smart meters rammed down their throats while those who protest corporate injustice and/or atrocities fear for their lives. Julian Assange, whistleblower at WikiLeaks, comes to mind as one of many. Faceplant (aka Facebook) sanctions you when you ask too many people to be ‘friends’. Over ten thousand seniors in Canada are being abused and sometimes die for lack of care in nursing homes. One in three women in this world, i.e. one billion, will be beaten or raped in their lifetime; and nobody in power seems outraged. Security at airports have been given the undisputed right to strip search you because you want to travel. You have to make an appointment to qualify in opening a bank account; and pray that you have what it takes to give them your money. In desperation and despair, too many are resorting to suicide and mass murder. Depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, disease, poverty and hunger are commonplace. Children, women and the elderly constitute the vast majority of the population living behind the poverty wall. If you’re not bleeding profusely on the street, chances are nobody would notice, let alone do anything. Success is measured increasingly in power and/or money.
In the face of all of the mess in this misguided world, I am not sure why I still cling to an ideal of peace and harmony. Yet, that is me. I come by the Flower Child title honestly. In my heart, I believe that if people would just love each other more, the rest would be details. Yet in my capacity as a psychotherapist, I realize that people must find the love for themselves before any sustainable change happens anywhere. At the same time, corporations are running much of what is going on; and they have no conscience or heart.
I may sound a bit naive, yet my vision is that everyone has the potential to evolve into a human being who embodies wisdom and compassion. Practically speaking, we have tools with which we may engender peace and harmony as part of a global design. As a counsellor, I subscribe to a Conflict Resolution Model that depicts two triangles, like mountains juxtaposed, with one corner overlapping. Two different goals are represented by the dual peaks. Each triangle has its own base yet the overlapping portion highlights the factors that are common to both. In that place, the two are able to communicate and find common ground. This is the fertile soil from which solutions may be grown. When two people are able to step away from their immediate desire in order to discover the core of what they really want, the vision becomes broader and more possible solutions are available. When we hold things in this more flexible, lighter way, it is easier to work out differences by finding a compromise between two divergent positions and/or needs. The goal is to eventually find a balance in outcome for both parties. The ironic twist is that, when we work together it strengthens both sides. The separate mountains have what it takes to become a mountain range.
So both parties need to understand that, in the end, a win-win solution is best. The increasingly global nature of our relationships (as aggregates) highlights how small the planet really is. We are in this together. So we will live and thrive together or we will eventually die together. That’s the view from a thousand feet.
In the microcosm, I personally look for that common ground in providing a platform in any conflictual scenario. Naturally, the will is involved as well. There must be the personal investment in wanting to work it out somehow. That attitude forms the climate around the issue, in principle. God knows that when I feel that the other person does not care about me enough to work things out, I get nervous. In the meantime, most people are still hostages of their fear-driven egos. The ego rears its ugly head in traffic, in the grocery store lineup, in the pursuit of money and in bed. It’s a challenge at times when you’re the only one with an altruistic bent and everyone else is playing a different game altogether.
At this point, I have only the time and energy to stick to my game plan, cross my fingers and observe the carnage around me. Yet, no matter how straight I play it, I am often wounded, to varying degrees, by the wide-reaching insanity of ego in its many forms. When you’re engaged in life, you rub shoulders with all sorts of people and situations.
In response, a positive resolution often comes down to forgiveness. Successful relationships always require the ability to forgive—sooner or later. Whether it is intentional or not, somebody is going to get hurt. People want different things and we do not usually communicate our needs well. Then there are gender differences and divergent expectations. Disparities in outlook that spring from a multitude of factors may position people in distant camps from each other. It all adds up to conflict.
On this playing field, if you have problems with forgiveness, you will no doubt eventually end up alone. Without forgiveness, a piece of you is perpetually held captive by whoever or whatever affected you. Forgiveness is the stepping stone to freedom. It makes us better listeners and sets us up for healthy personal relationships. Without forgiveness, we are sentenced to relive certain toxic patterns through a sequence of ‘teachers’ until we get the lesson.
Packing forgiveness under one arm and the Conflict Resolution Model under the other, we are well equipped to create peace and harmony with other people. Unfortunately, corporations (as sociopathic entities) don’t get it; and we’ve allowed them the same rights as human beings. That has to change if we are to step out of the insane dance and create a new way to move altogether.
Helena Green is a Registered Professional Counsellor in Nanaimo specializing in relationships, grief & loss, personal growth & seniors.