The giant boulder that is sitting in the middle of my life, blocking the path forward, is conflict:
conflict between different religions, nationalities, ethnic groups, generations, genders, lifestyles, gender preferences, etc.
My goal is to serve as a spokesperson, bridge, or peacemaker to help people of all viewpoints and perspectives get along.
But the intensity of misunderstanding, crossed purposes, and outright hate that we see in the world between different demographic groups, makes it hard to get this message across.
In yesterday’s blog post, I concluded that the only way I can deal with this giant boulder of conflict is to fly over it: to take a birds-eye view and provide perspective from ABOVE the conflict zone, rather than within it.
If I try to speak from within the conflict zone, I risk getting caught up in the conflict myself.
So what does it mean to address conflict from ABOVE?
There are several ways be thankful for the conflict that exists in the world between different religions, nations, and ethnic and lifestyle groups.
But wait, I hear you asking….how can we be thankful for things that are causing so much trauma, pain and even killing and war?
I am not, of course thankful for those terrible effects of conflict, and I would not expect or encourage anyone else to be thankful for them either.
Those terrible EFFECTS are caused by conflict that has been mishandled, but conflict can be addressed in ways that don’t produce such damaging results.
When we see or hear these terrible effects of conflict on the news, and focus our energy on them, we give the tragic results of mishandled conflict even more energy.
So how can we think about conflict in ways that lift the energy (up in the air, ABOVE the giant boulder) leading the way towards more positive results?
Here are some ways we can think about conflict from a thankful perspective:
We can be thankful for the diversity within humanity that produces multiple ways of living, multiple ways of understanding, and multiple points of view.
We can be thankful for all the people and institutions all over the world, that work to promote harmony between nations, religions, lifestyles, and groups
We can send love and support to all those who work and live in the midst of conflict-related issues every day: from international aid workers to translators to social workers to people living in multicultural and interfaith and mixed-orientation families and marriages (as just a few examples).
We can focus on what makes us all the same — our humanity — rather than on the demographic differences that divide us.
We can also look at conflict as a PROCESS, a result of development and growth within the human family.
Anyone who has parented a two-year old, or raised a teenager, knows that there are stages of human development that turn a quiet cooperative child into a surly, oppositional, hellion. It’s normal and important for children to say NO as they work to figure out who they are as opposed to who they are NOT.
There are times in human development when conflict is a needed part of the growing process.
Saying NO is part of developing boundaries.
Every cell, organism, person, family, nation and group has boundaries…it has either a literal or metaphorical membrane around it that defines what is and is not part of that group. This is how we can tell one cell, individual, nation or group from another: because it has an edge.
So what happens in a world that has become increasingly smaller, where travel and migration and economic conditions and war, bring groups of people with different world views and needs, together?
What happens is that peoples’ boundaries get pushed. People see other people doing things that are not part of their OWN cultural traditions, that are not part of how THEY were taught a “good person” behaves.
People see “THEM” (whoever “they” are) taking OUR (whoever “we” are) jobs, homes, etc.
People feel threatened: economically, culturally, educationally, morally, spiritually… and so they strike out, push back, defend themselves.
But all of these changes and even the feeling of threat, are part of a global process that is actually POSITIVE.
Our planet is maturing, and as it does so, humanity is coming together as a unified whole.
The process of global integration and synthesis makes different groups more aware of each other, and also more nervous about defending their own boundaries.
There are times of course when we MUST defend ourselves against those who wish us harm, or against invasion, or against evil. But most of the time, people and world views that are different do not wish us harm, and are not evil.
The problem is that when we are dealing with someone or something who is DIFFERENT, we lack the training and social cues to KNOW if they wish us harm or not. People feel threatened and they strike out, reject, criticize, blame, hurt, insult, and enact harmful laws that restrict the rights and freedoms of others.
People (of various faiths) interpret scripture in ways that cause them to dislike, demonize, and harm others.
We cannot be thankful for any of these harms.
But if people could instead stop and be thankful for the opportunity to get to know someone with a different perspective, a different point of view, and a different way of doing things, we could nip some of these harms in the bud.
What I am suggesting is simply this: we can be thankful for everyone that comes into our lives, and we can recognize that our planet is undergoing growing pains.
Most of us no longer live in tiny isolated villages where the inhabitants are from the same family and tribe.
Or rather, we do, but on a larger scale.
Our village is global now.
Our family is the family of man.
Our tribe is humanity.
Just as members of a family can appreciate the different talents and abilities among family members, we can do that for the human family too.
If we can see ourselves as part of ONE family, ONE tribe, then we can see the differences between us as interesting variations that enrich our understanding of what it means to be human.
We can approach these differences with love and thankfulness, rather than fear and hate.
The conflicts we are going through now are the growing pains of a planet that is striving to become integrated on a larger scale than ever before.
The conflicts are painful and hurtful and we cannot be thankful for the tragic harm and casualties they cause.
But if we can be thankful for our differences, we can stop CAUSING each other this harm, these casualties.
What about bad guys, you say?
There are some very bad guys out there, individuals and groups and organizations that truly seek to cause harm to others and do so every day.
These groups can be likened to cancer. They represent a disease process rather than a healthy developmental step.
When dealing with cancer, one would not be thankful for the disease, but one would be thankful for the researchers and doctors and nurses and social workers who do their best to help combat the disease.
Similarly, we can’t be thankful for individuals and institutions that seek to cause harm to others within the body of humanity. But we can be thankful to those who have come together to stop them.
How can we be thankful in the face of all the conflicts between religions, nations, and groups, raging in the world today?
We can be thankful for the diversity within the human family
We can be thankful for all those who work to promote harmony instead of conflict
We can be thankful for those who live with diversity every day and make it work
We can be thankful that our planet is growing and maturing, and that all of humanity is developing a broader, deeper, and richer perspective on what it means to be human
We can be thankful for our ability to tell the difference between people and organizations that are simply DIFFERENT from us, as opposed to those that actively wish to HARM us
We can be thankful for all those who work to curb people and groups that seek to harm others
We can see conflict between religions and groups as a STAGE in the development of humanity, and we can be thankful in advance (using a technique we will learn later) for the successful resolution of this stage
We can look forward to the time when we truly all CAN “just get along”, when humanity as a whole has grown enough to make that possible
I will be looking for examples of harmony and cooperation and understanding among different peoples and groups, and will post them on Mother Rebecca’s Facebook page.
Think about YOUR big rock… the giant boulder that blocks your way forward in life… and write about the positive lessons it teaches you.
What can you find to be thankful for, about YOUR big rock?
You can also look for examples of positive interactions between different demographic groups, and post them on Mother Rebecca’s Facebook page.