Resolving the most difficult conflicts

Georgene Rice of KPDQ-FM interviews Ken Newberger, author of Hope in the Face of Conflict.

Conflict surrounds all of us, whether it is in marriage, religious factions, in our churches, our workplace, or between countries. But, it can be avoided, according to Conflict Resolution Specialist Dr. Ken Newberger. The author of Hope in the Face of Conflict offers practical advice to foster reconciliation.

GEORGENE: Dr. Newberger, how do we make peace with one another and live together once conflict has occurred?  In the world today, we are surrounded by conflict. We are either the object of it or often times the cause of conflict.

NEWBERGER: It is all around us, but if we don’t deal with it, it just gets worse.  You must be conflict competent. By that I mean having the tools to deal with conflict so that it can be dealt with constructively. We must address it, resolve it, then get past it.

You make the point that love, not justice, is the first foundation to peace making. I think a lot of us would think it would be the other way around.

NEWBERGER: You need justice, but justice alone does not bring reconciliation. You could have justice by throwing someone in jail but there is not reconciliation—no relationship repair. If someone steals something out of your home, you are going to want those items returned and want that person punished. But, through reconciliation there must be an orientation towards love once those problems are addressed and resolved.

GEORGENE: You also talk about third party peacemaking being a major characteristic of the model.

NEWBERGER: If you are in conflict with someone and it’s not getting resolved, you need to bring in a third party.  It must be someone you both trust. It may be someone in the family or someone with whom you’ve had a good relationship. This includes churches. Most churches don’t have a plan to resolve conflict. They must design a plan in advance that includes a mediator.

If you are convinced it was someone else’s fault, that they are responsible, is there a role for the offended party to engage if the apology from the offending party is not forthcoming?

NEWBERGER: It is up to the offended party to initiate the process and involve a mediator. It is then up to the offender to say they want to be a part of the process and want to get the matter resolved. If they do that, there is a good chance things will work out.

GEORGENE: In your book you outline 12 stages for the Judeo-Christian model for peacemaking, walk us quickly through those 12 steps to reconciling with one another.

NEWBERGER: The book is over 400 pages, so I’ll just touch on the concepts. Initially, the parties would simply start the process. Then they would immerse themselves into the situation and determine how they see justice and envision peace. When people are in conflict they reduce each other to their worst fault, so they must create a human image of how God created that person–that they are far greater than the sin of their way. Then each person needs to see the error of their way and make a genuine apology. Reparations and forgiveness must be granted. At that point there may be a spirit of reconciliation to connect, but there could be some outstanding issues that need to be resolved so their relationship can be made whole. Finally, there may be some follow-up and the mediator helps them work through those issues.

GEORGENE: I loved your reference to how God reconciled with us, how He made peace with us, because He was the offended party. Often times we think that if we are the offended party, we are going to sit and wait until the offender approaches us.

NEWBERGER: If that was the way God had dealt with us, we would be sitting on our sins for eternity.

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