Saturday, February 11, 2006

Making peace

Before I saw PBS's Frontline story on global sex slave traffic, (See The Slave Trade--Alive and flourishing in every country including this one.) I promised a discussion on ways to handle the inevitable interpersonal clashes that come our way.

Turns out, the two may be more related than you might think.

I will start by asking a question and telling a story.

Have you ever encountered an individual in your work with whom it seemed every interaction was fraught with conflict, misunderstanding, even betrayal?

Was a time, I worked with a woman--call her Miranda--who in my youthful, judgemental state, I dubbed The Screamer.

Inevitably angry, Miranda seemed incapable of speaking in a normal tone of voice.

One day I was the target of her bile. In a 20-minute tirade, she hurled accusations that bit me to the core.

Anger boiled. Time gone by, I would have given as much as I got, but I was learning new skills for conflict resolution and wanted to live by them if I could.

I attempted reasoning with her. She would have none of it.

I attempted using the broken-record, I-statement techniques of assertiveness training classes (from the Eighties--are you familiar with these communication tools?).

Miranda simply talked over me. Each time I spoke, she interrupted and began her tirade again.

When she was finally out of steam, in the calmest tone I could muster, I told her it looked like we were not going to reach an agreement. Surprisingly, she was silent.

Unable to control my shaking voice, I told her I understood she was angry, I was sorry for the difficult spot she was in, and that my intention was to support her in any way I could.

She said nothing.

I told her I felt she was unfair in her accusations, that I deserved her respect as another human being who also worked hard in pursuit of our organizational goals, and that I wanted an apology for her behavior.

Then I closed my mouth and breathed, raggedly for sure, heart pounding so hard I thought it might break.

At first Miranda screamed again.

Shaking visibly, tears flowing, head pulsing with the desire to tell her what-for, I prayed to anyone bigger than me for the universal salve, compassion.

Singlemindedly shutting out her voice, her cutting words, I focused on an imaginary Miranda--calm, serene, and hearing me.

Immediately, her voice dropped to conversational level. She said she could not talk about this any more and hung up.

Puzzled by Miranda's sudden soft tone, unnerved that she had abruptly ended the conversation with no resolution, still filled with anger and hurt, I wanted desperately to retaliate. I wanted someone bigger than me to hurt her as she had hurt me.

I also wanted very much to make peace with Miranda. I had a growing sense that if we are ever to achieve peace in the world at large, it must begin in moments like this.

That evening, I meditated for some time. Then I prayed.

I prayed to the Great Spirit.

For you, the Higher Power may have another name. Perhaps you pray to Allah, to God, to Jehovah, Qwan Yin, or the Goddess. I have absolute faith that the Higher Power by any name, who loves the children of the Earth, sees the intention of our hearts.

Though I felt more vengeful than loving, I prayed that Spirit heal my heart of the anger and hurt I was not yet ready to let go. Righteous in my rage, I wanted to hang onto it, feel it, express it. The tiny part of me that believed peace is possible, prayed on.

I asked that Spirit shower Miranda with love I did not feel, with the tenderness that Spirit feels toward all the beings of the Earth, no matter our behavior.

Fill Miranda's heart so full of love, Spirit, that she knows only love, can feel only love.

Heal her of all that causes her to behave this way toward others, toward me.

Heal the wounded child that grew up to need to hurt others.

Salve her. Bring love into her life so full, so fresh, so lasting that she need never hurt another again.

Heal me, that I might see her as the perfect being you see.

The following day as I readied for work, I continued this prayer. On the way to work, and entering the office, I said this prayer.

Even then, I did not feel the love for Miranda that surely Great Spirit felt for her.

Guess what? That morning, Miranda the Screamer apologized. In a voice soft, conversational, and sincere, miraculously she apologized.

For the remainder of my time in that position, Miranda was a different person. I became quite fond of her.

Human nature being what it is, inevitably conflicts occur in any organization.

When I feel betrayed or hurt by another's actions, if I am able to pause, breathe, and pray for loving kindness to come to the fore, those relationships tend to improve instantly.

The times that I hold onto my anger and hurt, the times I do not call on the love of Spirit when I have none in my own heart for the other individual, are the times the conflict deepens.

Try it the next time you feel injured by another.

Let me know how this concept works for you.

Then, begin thinking about utilizing the power of peaceful intent and love to help heal the hearts of those who do harm in so much more egregious a manner--such as the individuals who enslave and torture others for their pleasure.

This is one way we might build Ordinary right now.

I welcome your feedback and dialogue.


  1. Hi I´m Chriswab. Greatings from Germany,Bottrop !!

  2. May I comment by posting a link to something I wrote last October?

  3. Thank you for sharing your post, Paul. (See

    It seems everywhere I look these days are examples of compassion interrupting hatred and healing what appear to be irreconcilable anger between two people.

    Maybe all it takes to make peace is to give it a chance.


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