In this episode we will introduce a few key principles of faith-based mediation.
We start with a description of the dual-axis model. In this model, the vertical axis represents our relationship with God. The horizontal axis represents relationships with our brothers and sisters – with our fellow humans.
These axes are linked. What we do on one affects the other. For example, when we reconcile with other people, our relationship with God improves. And when we reconcile with God our relationships with our fellow man improve.
Mediators work back and forth — they heal relationship on one axis and then on the other.
This idea — that our human relationships are linked to our relationship with God — is a new idea for most people. Typically, this is not how people think about conflict and reconciliation. Rarely do we consider that God plays a key role in our relations with our fellow man.
But it makes perfect sense. We live in a universe that consists of both natural and supernatural aspects. Thus, it should be no surprise to find our relationships and conflicts include both natural and supernatural components.
In order to deepen your understanding of this aspect of peacemaking you may want to reflect on all the ways you see both natural and supernatural forces at work in your relationships.
This all begins to make more sense when we drill down to uncover the foundation of all conflict — man’s divine endowment of free will.
All too often a person’s exercise of free will clashes with another person’s exercise of free will. A person exercises their free will only to discover they are standing in opposition to their fellow man — or they are standing in opposition to God.
This conflict dynamic starts with a simple principle: Man is endowed with free will.
Let’s take a closer look at how this works. When people experience desire, they have a choice whether or not they will pursue satisfaction of that desire. If the answer is “yes” the exercise of free will morphs into an intention. The person targets the achievement of a specific outcome.
Thus, peacemakers find parties each intend to be something — to do something — or to have something. A person may want to be a company president. They may want to climb Mount Everest. Or they may want to have a million dollars.
But, unfortunately, they do not exercise free will in a vacuum. Other people exercise free will and act on their chosen intentions. These various intentions often clash. Perhaps someone does not want a person to be, to do, or to have what they intend.
Perhaps one corporate leader intends to be president of the corporation. But another executive opposes their desire. Maybe they do not see that person as fit for the office or they seek to win the position for themselves. We may call this corporate politics, but, as a bottom line, we have a clash of free will. We have opposing intentions.
It is not surprising to find many instances in which a person’s pursuit of satisfaction is blunted. Their intentions may even be totally blocked. This is when peacemakers step in to manage the exercise of free will.
Perhaps an analogy can help us better understand this role of a mediator.
For a moment, imagine you’re at a carnival. You come upon the attraction that features bumper cars. Drivers are having a grand time smacking into one another, sending one another off course. Occasionally the collisions result in the bumper cars becoming stuck. That is when the ride operator disentangles the cars and sets them back in the correct direction.
Mediators are like the ride operator who keeps the bumper cars headed in the same direction. Like the ride operator, mediators disentangle collisions. They seek to realign party intentions so they aim roughly in the same direction.
Faith-based mediators take a unique approach to this task. They help parties align their intentions with a common baseline intention — the Will of God.
In the more common approach one might try to get each party to line up with the other party’s intention. This is difficult. Parties do not necessarily respect each other. They are reticent to accommodate one another. They resist any movement forward.
But the idea of seeking to align with the Will of God may be seen in a more positive light. Among people of faith seeking to follow the Will of God may even be considered a sacred duty.
As faith-based mediators reconcile relationships, their approach begins to imitate the ministry of Christ the Mediator. This approach is often more intense than normal mediation. This is peacemaking in the truest sense of the word.
In future episodes we will take up specific steps and techniques one at a time. We will concentrate for an entire episode on a particular skill or concept.
This will provide you with approaches you can use to resolve your own conflicts — and approaches you can use as a peacemaker. The material will be designed to help you reconcile relationships – in the family – in the workplace - in the community or parish - and perhaps even on the world stage.
But, if you find yourself in a pressing situation, a conflict that must be handled right away, you do not have to wait for the next episode. You are invited to turn to Taming the Wolf: Peace through Faith, which appears on our website. In that conflict resolution manual contemporary conflict resolution is combined with the peacemaking legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Or you may want to screen the forty short videos on peacemaking located on the site: tamingthewolf.com
Before I wrap up this episode, let’s review the role mediation will play in the proposed Assisi Centers.
People who arrive at an Assisi Center suffering from broken relationships will find it difficult to engage in spiritual direction. Damaged relationships will be anchors that prevent them from lifting their hearts toward God. So spiritual directors will need to start by reconciling relationships.
When we reconcile relationships with our fellow man, we improve our relationship with God — which is the goal of spiritual direction. Mending our relationships is a way to kick off our pilgrimage to unity with Christ.
Spiritual directors who deliver mediation (and train other people to use mediation) enhance the discipline of spiritual direction. They remove barriers and begin to draw people closer to God.
Thus, mediation can be seen as a vital sub-discipline of the overall discipline of Spiritual Direction.
In the next episode we will take up the second sub-discipline — Pastoral Counseling.
Until then reflect on how your life might change if you were to reconcile troubled relationships — including your relationship with God. What would that look like?
May God bless you and bring you peace.