Deception - Part IV
Welcome to Episode 28 in which we continue our reflection on the Destructive Hidden Influence.
Peacemakers probably do not anticipate being called upon to be detectives, but Destructive Hidden Influences make this necessary.
Peacemakers must become sleuths in the tradition of Columbo, the television detective. Peacemakers must develop detective skills. They must become skilled at uncovering the villains, the underlying drivers of conflict.
In a manner similar to detectives who solicit and listen to eyewitness crime reports, peacemakers must elicit conflict narratives. Then, at the same time they encourage candid accounts of the events that transpired, they carefully evaluate those accounts. They remain alert for clues that signal an account “just does not make sense.” They are sensitive to statements that are simply illogical.
They notice when facts have been omitted. They develop a detective’s intuition that tells them something has been covered up and hidden. They develop a keen sense that key information is missing. They can tell when they do not have all the pieces to the puzzle.
As a detective they also sense when the puzzle pieces do not fit. When they hear the conflict narrative, they sense things are out of order. They notice when a party has left out or altered time. Then, when they discover there is altered or missing time, they know it is likely that something has been hidden.
They pay close attention when the stories being told contradict one another. Contradictory accounts cannot both be true. One or the other must be false. Or both may be false. Contradictory reports trigger an alarm in the mind of the mediator.
Peacemakers, in their role as detectives, become sensitive to inconsistent stories. They detect when accounts are meant to save face.
They are especially alert to those times when the narrative seems to have scripted by another person. They notice when the language, the words used, do not seem to originate with the party telling the story. They notice when it seems the party is repeating something they have been told by another. This is a clue that a hidden influence has been altering the party’s reality.
Peacemakers must pull strings. They must ask penetrating questions. But they proceed with a casual and caring demeanor, enlisting support for their search for the truth. They are not interrogators as much as storytelling partners.
Their queries are designed to identify the source of facts, opinions, and views. “Do you recall where you first heard that?“ Or “Who might have shared that opinion with you?”
Questions also explore how the party knows their opposition: “How did you learn that about the other person?” or “Who has helped you understand the other person?” Another prompt might be: “Help me understand how you learned that about the other person.”
Peacemakers often ask both sides, “Who will benefit if this fight continues?” The parties will rarely be able to answer this question immediately. They hesitate. They say they will have to give it some thought.
Typically, they will fail to consider the subtle psychological benefits a destructive third party gains when they get others to battle one another. A mediator may then ask who would be most threatened or disappointed if the conflict ended. “Who does not want you to reconcile?” A mediator might ask: “Who might lose the most if you heal this relationship?” Or, “Who might feel excluded? Whose status might be threatened?”
The same type of questions might be used to explore social power. We may ask, “If you reconcile, who will no longer be valued as a source of inside information?”
Gentle, curious probing thus helps parties discover hidden influences. When peacemakers pull strings they expose covert agents lurking in the shadows. As these sources are tracked down, the parties brighten noticeably. They experience “aha” moments. They recognize their previous thinking had been tainted. Once Destructive Hidden Influences are identified the conflict quickly resolves. It almost seems like a miracle.
Mediators not only employ heightened discernment skills, they function in a unique role. A mediator is a positive third party that offsets the negative or destructive third party.
A positive third party, a mediator, reconciles relationships damaged by a negative third party.
A Destructive Hidden Influence keeps the parties at each other’s throats. The mediator reconciles parties.
Destructive Hidden Influences keep their intentions secret. Mediators stress transparency.
A peacemaker, a mediator, is the antidote to the poison of the destructive hidden influence.
In peacemaking, destructive intentions that once survived in the shadows are exposed to the light. Transparency and light diminish evil intentions.
You may want to reflect on the phrase “Christ the Mediator.” One may come to fully understand how Christ reconciles man with God, undoing the damage caused by the Serpent who destroyed divine relationship. This dynamic is a vital concept in faith-based peacemaking.
We may want to use these same tools to analyze a world that seems to be on fire with turmoil. The work with individuals can be applied to individuals within a group. We can analyze the group dynamics that foster continued conflict.
For example, when peacemakers work to realign intentions with the Will of God, they often encounter Group Think manufactured by destructive hidden influences. This rigid Group Think induces lemming-like behavior that causes mankind to march in unproductive directions. This solid wall of collective induced opinion may stymie a creative negotiator.
The conformist culture orchestrated by Destructive Hidden Influences prevents groups from making peace with other groups. Hidden influences lock groups into rigid positions. The reason for such intransigence may seem to be a mystery — until a peacemaker begins sorting out destructive hidden influences.
For example, peacemakers may spend considerable effort negotiating a creative plan that creates mutual benefit for two groups. But then stakeholders block the agreement when a hidden party exerts its influence. When this happens, the other group grows suspicious. They anticipate that stakeholders will commit future destructive acts. So they walk away from the table. And the conflict persists.
In such instances, the negotiation collapses because the peacemaker has not identified Destructive Hidden Influences that are sabotaging the group, the company, or a nation. In these instances, the peacemaker must find a way to reassure the skeptical group that the other side will overcome the mysterious forces at work. And then that peacemaker must find the hidden influence.
The biggest challenge peacemakers face when it comes to the Destructive Hidden Influence lies in this detective work. Once they spot the destructive influence, the conflict resolves.
And yet, solving the mystery can be difficult. Most often the Destructive Third Party has sworn others to secrecy. People have been led to believe they owe the destructive influence a pledge of silence. They believe the third party’s friendship and the insider information they provide is worth their silence. Of course the pledge of silence is simply another trick in the toolbox of the Destructive Hidden Influence.
Peacemakers are well advised to start the process by asking the question: “Has the actual cause of the conflict been overlooked?” They consider the option that most people avoid: “Does someone intend to destroy relationships?” And, in response to impasse, they must always ask: “Is there a hidden influence that remains unknown, unexposed? Who might that be?”
There is a great deal to learn about solving the problem of the Destructive Hidden Influence. When one considers the magnitude of the damage caused by the deceptive Serpent who precipitated the Fall of Man, one may begin to realize this aspect of the work demands an unusual dedication and skill.
With that in mind, I highly recommend that listeners follow up with a careful study of Chapter 18 of Taming the Wolf: Peace through Faith. The book can be found at tamingthewolf.com
Aspiring peacemakers cannot spend too much time studying this topic. It is that important.
Good day. May God bless you and bring you peace.