Conflict Resolution - A Unique New Approach

Beginning in 1996, our very small Christian Church has used an amazingly effective method of Conflict Resolution between married couples, neighbors, and even parents and teenagers. We think we invented this method, as we have never heard of anyone else trying to use it. While traditional Conflict Resolution by Psychologists and other Professionals tend to only have around 30% successs ratio, in the approximate 80 times our system has been used, it appears that there were only two incidents where the adversaries did not immediately become amazingly friendly to each other. We tried to track such situations for the following five years, where the success continued for that long period.

In a quiet, private room, we arranged three chairs in a particular arrangement. Two of the chairs were usually simple folding chairs, which we placed near the middle of the room, about three feet apart and facing the same wall of the room. Very importantly, we always placed a 'privacy screen' between these two chairs so the two people could never actually see each other. They COULD hear what each other would say. In front of the two, along that room wall, we would place the largest, most luxurious chair that our Church could obtain. The room was otherwise empty of any other furniture or even wall hangings. It was always an intentionally bare room.

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Each of the two antagonists would not address each other, EVER! The Minister would greet each of the two and lead them to the seat on the folding chair(s). The Minister would then point out that, being a Church building, by definition, we were in the House of the Lord. We would then note the impressive chair in front of both of them, and the Minister would mention that he had Prayed that the Lord might Help resolve the matter at hand, and that we had provided the best Chair that we could obtain, 'just in case the Lord might stop by to help us today'.

The Minister rarely had to emphasize that idea, but there are a few follow-up comments that the Minister might make if he got the impression that either or both of the participants did not fully grasp the concept that the Lord of the entire Universe might choose to participate in solving THEIR problem! Only a couple times in the approximately eighty times we used this method did the man involved smile and scoff at the idea that the Lord of the Universe might come to sit in a Chair in a small Church. The Minister could then note that God is Capable of EVERYTHING, and He regularly watches over 7,000,000,000 of us people along with uncountable of His animals and plants, so we Ministers do not see it as impossible for God to show up in THIS House of His. We sometimes admit that we are not sure that He CONSTANTLY is in THIS House of His, but we believe that He Comes by whenever He Feels that it is important to do so.

Sometimes, those skeptical (men) would stare at the big Chair long enough that they convinced themselves of what we had said. AFTER our procedure, one of those skeptical men asked if he might be allowed a moment, where he knelt down and faced the Chair. We think he may have wanted to apologize to the Lord for his earlier doubts, but his Prayer was silent so we did not hear for sure.

They two protagonists were told to ONLY speak directly to the Lord, that is, toward the Chair in which the Lord might then be Seated, to present their descriptions of their situation to the Lord (individually, and sequentially, for as long as either felt necessary to describe the situation fully and completely to the Lord. They would obviously each start out indicating how much they each revere and worship and adore the Lord, and they would then tell Him about their various beliefs and, eventually, about their personal view of the situation for which they were now taking up His Time.

We Ministry were regularly amazed at how carefully each person spoke, when realizing that they might be actually speaking to the One, True, God of the Universe! NEVER any nasty comments or bad words about the other protagonist. In fact, we were often amazed at the respectful and positive comments often said about the other! 'He is a good provider but he has had trouble getting a good job lately'. "She is a good cook for me and our children.'

People in stressed marriages rarely hear such positive comments from their spouses! Watching their faces, we realized that they each were really appreciating hearing such things from their spouses!

Note that WE, the Ministers, never injected any personal opinions or comments, the way (professional) Conflict Resolution professionals do. In our opinion, such 'professionals' feel free to 'talk down to' the participants (as though they are so smart to know all solutions to problems that they often do not even waste their time learning about!) We see a tremendous advantage in NOT forcing our personal opinions on the participants, and instead TOTALLY letting the two participants provide all the text!

After both participants have had a chance to tell the Lord what their view of their situation is, the Minister (usually, but not always) then 'appears' in the front half of the room, to now ask each of them to tell the Lord how they feel that their situation might be improved.

We Ministry had initially expected this to become a 'down and dirty' period where each would list off all the perceived failings of their spouses. We were shocked to hear the most 'gentle' criticisms that could ever be expressed! For example, instead of hearing vicious comments are a total inability to cook edible foods, we sometimes instead heard an OFFER for the man to 'buy a cookbook' if that might be desirable. The POINT of a shortcoming WAS expressed to the Lord (and to the spouse) but in a way that not was offensive.

The RESULT of all these 'comments to the Lord' were often wonderfully useful SUGGESTIONS from each to the other, BECAUSE they were always phrased in such a way to be said to the Lord.

The premise is that both antagonists are logical enough to understand that the opposing person really wants to also Worship the Lord and Praise Him. As each side makes its case to the Lord, an aspect of mutual understanding and mutual respect generally seemed to always develop.

We recognize that our ENVIRONMENT enabled Conflict Resolution which might sometimes not seem as easy to accomplish. If one or both participates happen to be Atheists otherwise non-Believers in the Lord, the Power of the environment might not exist. However, both participants do NOT need to be Protestant Christians! It rarely happened during our using this system, but it could happen that we had a Muslim sitting in one of the chairs and a Catholic in the other chair. We would introduce our building slightly differently then, and the Chair and the Lord. To the one, we would still refer to having Prayed to the Lord, but in Asking that the One True God of the Universe, Allah, might join us to resolve the current situation, while the other was told that One True God of the Universe, Who is also called Jehovah or Lord, might join us.

In theory, we think this same approach might work if the two participants were both Muslims, a Shia and a Sunni. Or if the two were a Roman Catholic and a Protestant Christian. As long as each of the participants recognized the possibility that the Lord of the Universe might see fit to sit in front of them and help us humans resolve our difference.

By the way, probably about 30% of the time, we Ministers had convinced the participants very thoroughly! It was common that we Ministry would be asked whether the person should get down on the knees to talk to the Lord! Our answer was that we thought the Lord was tolerant of our human ways, but that He would prefer whatever position that a person felt most comfortable. One man even lay prone on the floor while talking to the Lord! Maybe 15% of people kneeled,the majority of which were women.

Historically, mankind has initiated many wars, killed many people, and felt countless deep hatreds, all in the name of the Lord. These conflicts and feelings seem to forever persist and never seem to ever become resolved. We feel that we have a unique new approach to resolving such disagreements and conflicts. It is quite simple in design, but profound in its potential value.

In a conventional debate, or in separate news conferences, proponents of each side feel the incentive to make inflammatory comments about the opposition, and spout dogmatic positions, to inspire their own followers into emotional rage. It would be outrageously blasphemous to do such things when addressing the Lord. After all, He already knows what is in the heart of each of them.

By always addressing all comments and arguments to the Lord and not each other, a spirit of reverence and respect should be prominent from both sides. There is no point in trying to manipulate the Lord, separate from the blasphemy of even trying to do so. Each person would likely only present calm descriptions and explanations of their thoughts.

After such an interaction, each proponent would hopefully contemplate the many similarities of attitudes and beliefs between the two sides. In deference to the Lord, both sides might think about those similarities and attempt to find resolutions for their differences, rather than focusing on the few differences as overwhelming conflicts, they might recognize a healthier perspective, of great compatibility with some differences.

Without the Lord's participation as described above, neither side seems to feel they have much incentive to "give in" on any points. They are humans, often driven by selfish motives, for themselves and their followers. But, if forced to directly address the Lord on such matters, the properly important things should come to the fore.

This method seems likely to have value in many situations. Whether it is personal feelings between two individuals who are each believers in the Lord, or different Denominations of Churches who are arguing over some aspect of belief, or even larger problems like the Catholic-Orthodox Schism of a thousand years or the Balkan Moslem-Orthodox-Catholic conflict of hundreds of years, this method might aid in achieving a resolution or at least a tolerance.

In many situations, it may be beneficial to have one additional person present, a person accepted by both sides as impartial, a sort of moderator. In the event that one of the adversaries makes an inflammatory statement (to the Lord), the moderator could ask whether that was an appropriate statement to the Lord, allowing the speaker to re-state his point in calmer terms. If a proponent makes an illogical statement (to the Lord), the moderator might comment regarding how the Lord might have responded to such a statement. Other than that, the moderator would not significantly participate, except to explain the format and get them started in ONLY speaking to the Lord.

Since this approach seems to have value, there might be a second application of it. If this exact same arrangement was arranged in public, with a live audience and possibly a television audience, listeners and viewers might see the value in calmer approaches to such conflicts. If a lesson could be given to the general public that conflict should generally NOT be resolved by violence or weapons, to show that religious, family values should be paramount in conflict resolution, all of society would benefit.

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in July 2000.

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