I am used to hearing the term "wage war" but not "wage peace". Let us begin to change our thinking, our language and our actions toward peace. As members of PPSEAWA, we tout peace. But, do we live it?
War and conflict are words I often hear used together in a negative context. The reality is that conflict is natural in the world, it is neither positive nor negative, good or bad. It just is.
It is not whether we have conflict in our lives. It is what we do with conflict that makes a difference. Learning conflict and confrontation skills that enhance us and others will help us to accept and even welcome conflict in our lives as opportunities for growth.
Often conflict is made to seem like a game, someone wins and someone loses. There is a correlation between our development process and effective conflict resolution skills. Less effective strategies include physical resolutions, power struggles, while more effective strategies use cognitive-behavior modification skills, communication skills, knowing whose problem it is, assertiveness and empathy.
More effective conflict resolution skills encourage improved personal and interpersonal relations where cooperation, problem solving and a win-win atmosphere are the goals. Resolving conflict is not about personal justification, but more about growing and learning who we are, what we value, communication and appreciation of differences. Understanding the nature of conflict begins with an internal review of our beliefs and perceptions. Every person has a need to be heard, understood and valued.
What about our own lives? Are you irritated by that other driver to the point of road rage? Do you take your anger quickly to a lawsuit before mediation? Do you strike out at a child before you establish calm and then listen? Are you quick to judge others without a clear idea of the facts and the other point of view? Do you automatically assume that a person is guilty of an action if she did it once before?
A person can respond to conflict with skills such as thinking outside the box (creativity), paraphrasing in order to clarify or summarize what the other person says, using storytelling or humor to diffuse a situation, actively listening in respectful silence and being willing to honestly admit to making a mistake. These are the tools of a confident person who successfully wages peace.
One of the persons I see most clearly demonstrating this mature leadership behavior in the world today is Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He actually speaks peace. He demonstrates patience with firm resolve. He promotes mediation and conciliation to resolve issues. He actively wages peace in the world.
A person who wages peace effectively teaches peace. At every school where we teach and practice mediation, we will be better able to raise children who can reach their full potential as adults. Similarly at every school where adults model the communication of peace and non-violence, we will have children able to defend themselves with the ways of peace.
Waging peace is not "wimpy". Waging peace is not a lesser alternative. In the end it is stronger than waging war as a solution. Waging peace is not easy and it's not a quick fix. Waging peace has no "shock and awe". What will you choose? Which kind of elected officials will you support and choose? Which kind of environment will you establish in your home, in your community? It's up to each one of us in PPSEAWA.