Conflict. Is it about Resolution or Transformation?

May 29, 2013

Conflict Transformation, Everyday Peacemaking, Israel/Palestine, Learning Lab, Participant Reflections, Uncategorized, Understanding Phase

Alex Messarra is an emerging influencer from Houston, Texas who has been formed in large part due to her commitment to live in the posture of a learner as she navigates everyday life.  She is a photographer, a student, a global traveler, and participant in TGIP’s upcoming Learning Lab.  In this guest blog post,  Alex reflects on a key learning from our Understanding Phase that, if integrated into our everyday lives, will have massive implications within family, neighborhood, vocational space, social location, and global village. She writes:

When I first got married, I had no presuppositions that my marriage would be free of strife or quarreling.  The very nature of being human means we will experience conflict.  Yet not only are my husband, Nate, and I opinionated first-borns with a flare for saying exactly what we think, we are also business partners.  And I can attest that sharing a small business with your spouse can be exasperating, maddening, and arduous.

As I have encountered my own brokenness and the vicious cycles of conflict that continue to plague my marriage and relationships, I long for peace. And if I’m honest Jesus’ command for me to love my enemies, turn the other cheek and be a person of peace seems a bit out of reach. If I can’t seem to do this with my husband, whom I love, how am I supposed to do this with my irritating neighbor? How am I supposed to do this when a client isn’t able to pay me when they say they will?

During TGIP’s Understanding Phase, I have learned biblical, realistic, and hopeful ways to think about conflict and conflict resolution.

While reading Glen Stassen’s Just Peacemaking, my heart was overwhelmed by the realization of how deeply God wants to transform His broken people. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus does not simply give us a high moral calling to strive for, but instead makes a proclamation of good news about God’s transforming initiatives to deliver us from vicious cycles of sin and death.

Yet what about peacemaking and these transforming initiatives on a larger global scale? As I have become more educated about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I have a sinking feeling that any effort of mine to work for peace will mean little more than a drop in the ocean. What can I–an American Christian woman living 7,000 miles away–really do to make a difference?

In his small book The Little Book of Conflict Transformation, John Paul Lederach writes:

At its most basic, the language of ‘conflict resolution’ implies finding a solution to a problem.  It guides our thinking toward bringing some set of events or issues, usually experienced as very painful, to an end.  We seek a conclusion.  Resolution’s guiding question is this: How do we end something that is not desired? [Conflict] Transformation directs us toward change, to how things move from one shape to a different one.

This idea of working to transform conflict rather than resolve conflict makes the task of working for peace—whether it be in my apartment with my husband or overseas–a little less daunting. It reminds me that it is not all on me to end something, but instead to work toward the construction of something new and creative.  I must consistently remember that God has already started the work of peace in Christ, and it is simply my job to join in His transforming initiatives.

As we immerse into Israel and Palestine I look forward to learning from those that are working locally to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in small changes and in large, over meals and in protests, and in the daily loving of enemies.

Next Post

Here and There