Conflict Resolution

New Method of Resolution for Disagreements

An amazingly effective new method of Conflict Resolution exists. Rather than having "an expert" or "an authority figure" announce expected behaviors to participants, this method does NOT involve any such "outside intimidations". Instead, it applies some subtle pressure on each participant to be honest and to behave well.

We always emphasize that we are a Christian Church, and that we are in a building which belongs to the Lord. We arrange a very simple room format, really with just two folding chairs in the middle of the room with a "privacy screen partition" between them. The only other furniture in the room is a very large and luxurious chair against a wall, facing them.

We remind our visitors that, as a Christian Church, the BUILDING belongs to God. They cannot see each other but they can easily hear each other. We explain the presence of the large chair they see facing them, in that we have INVITED the Lord to participate in the coming discussions about their issues. We note that we never know for sure if the Lord will Choose to attend, in HIS HOUSE, but that we Pray to ask Him to assist our visitors in resolving whatever troubles them. We then suggest that, in case that He IS present, in His house, that each visitor speak (only) TO THE LORD to explain their side of the situation.

We found it amazing how respectfully our visitors would describe their adversaries, when contemplating that they may be presenting this information to the Lord Himself!

Many "experts" have created countless speculations upon which they claim that people can resolve their personal conflicts. They argue with each other over whose approach is "correct." Traditional Conflict Resolution by Psychologists and other Professionals tend to only have around 30% success ratio.

In 1996, for our own reasons, our tiny Christian Church created our own method, which seems to have been amazingly effective in resolving the personal conflicts that arrived at our door! We used our approach about 80 times over a number of years, and in every single one of those incidents, there appeared to be virtual INSTANTANEOUS resolution between the hostile parties, and in all the cases for which we could monitor later history, the conflict had apparently not recurred. That seemed to show essentially a 100% success ratio regarding resolving the conflicts! In most of those cases, the participants were married couples who had previously pursued conventional Counseling and other methods before they came in our Church door in a "last resort" before an apparently imminent divorce. As a Church and Ministers, we always TRY to help people, but even we were and are amazed that we never heard of any Divorces among those individuals during the following five years. In a strictly scientific sense, this has to be considered to be "anecdotal evidence" as we never saw cause to try to be as clinically analytical as true science must always be. Our purpose was very personal, of simply trying to provide aid to people who were hurting. But the remarkable success of our approach seems to suggest that there might be merit in looking into this approach in a more rigorously scientific way.

Roughly half of the seven billion people who now share our planet believe in what we call God or Lord. Most of these follow beliefs that are referred to as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, or Orthodox, but there are many others who also fall into the category of believing in a Higher Power. Our approach is entirely based on this basic fact. We do not think it matters too much WHICH of these belief systems applies, but we will describe the situation which we generally experienced in order to explain what it is and why it works.

We set up one room of the Church building, usually about 15 feet square, to be virtually without furnishings and without any pictures on the walls or other decorations or distractions. Near the very center of the room, we place a "privacy screen" roughly 4 feet wide and at least 6 feet high. We never saw any difference between whether it was an attractive (but bland) pair of sheets of veneer wall paneling or the translucent privacy screens which are commonly sold for that purpose. On each side of this room divider we placed an inexpensive chair, usually a folding chair. Both chairs face the same direction although they cannot see each other. The room is otherwise empty, with a single exception. Along the wall, directly in front of the two chairs, is the most impressive chair we could find, and we placed it directly facing the two chairs. Anyone sitting in this elegant chair would have a clear view of both chairs and their occupants.

Virtually the only visible thing of any interest in the room, for the two chair occupants, is the elegant chair.

At the scheduled time of the appointment, usually one of the two would arrive first, as they usually were not even talking and they would not share a vehicle. Only one other person is involved, and that often was me, a Christian Minister, although that might not be critical for this purpose.

I would greet the first to arrive, which tended to be the wife, and lead her to the folding chair where she would sit. Depending on how stressed she seemed, I sometimes would seat her in the chair on the side which was not visible from the doorway. In that situation, the husband and wife often never even saw each other at all during the meeting. Once she was seated, small talk about weather and such often occurred, until the doorbell rang with the husband. I would greet him and lead him to his folding chair. They could HEAR each other but not SEE each other.

Once they were both seated, I would walk up in front of both of them with a little "speech" that we generally presented. We would first remind both of them that "This building is the House of the Lord" which I tended to repeat a couple more times during my introductory speech. We then described that we invited both of them today for a very specific purpose. We would note that they had NOT been able to resolve their differences in previous efforts. And so we felt that their situation was such that we would Pray to the Lord to Help them today. We would explain that even if HUMANS had not been able to help them resolve their issues, the Lord certainly Could!

Usually, our participants were both Christians, but even when one or both were not, they always accepted these descriptive statements as being valid.

At this point, we would explain the presence of the elegant chair! We would describe that, this being the Lord's House, where we trusted that He was regularly Present, we had Asked the Lord to come today to aid in the resolution of the current issues. We chose to provide the most appropriate chair FOR THE LORD, IN HIS HOUSE, and we would then point to the (apparently unoccupied) elegant chair.

Some of the participants seemed skeptical of all this, but some were awed by the situation. Often I would be asked "are you saying that Jesus Christ Himself might be Sitting right there in front of me?" My response to that question was always that we never actually knew when the Lord was Present (in His House) but the fact that we had Prayed to Him to aid us today encourages us to feel that, yes, he may be Sitting right there right now!

Some people's brains seemed to come unglued at this idea! Quite a few suddenly prostrated themselves on the floor (in the Presence of the Lord) although I do not recall any couple who both did that at the same time. Many just sat very upright and "proper."

I would then explain that I intended to give each of them plenty of time to "describe to the Lord" exactly what the problem is, and then they would have a second time and even a third, if they had neglected to mention anything important (to the Lord).

I would then circle around BEHIND the two chairs, and would not be seen again by either of them. ALL they had to occupy their vision and their attention was the big elegant chair, and the possibility that the Lord Himself might be Sitting there (invisible to us, of course!)

I would then usually ask which of them wanted to explain first to the Lord. If neither or both volunteered, I would generally ask the woman to be first.

Often, they would ask if they should remain seated, or stand, or kneel, in proper respect for the Lord. My answer was always that the Lord KNEW each person and He KNEW what position would be respectful. Most tended to stand up to speak. Maybe a quarter would remain seated. A handful would kneel and one even prostrated himself in addressing the Lord.

The CARE that each used to select words to address to the Lord was always impressive. Where nearly anyone might crudely and immediately describe some serious criticism, there were nearly always preface remarks about POSITIVE characteristics of the person who was about to be criticized. I am not sure why that happened but it was remarkably common. Maybe they wanted to make sure the Lord knew that the speaker was not a harsh or angry person. I don't really know. However, eventually, the speaker would get around to expressing the actual central criticism, but often in remarkably "gentle" ways!

Keep in mind that the other person was hearing these WONDERFUL perspectives on him or herself! Possibly compliments they had not heard since the day they were Married! And even the criticisms were not as severe as they had certainly always heard them at home, but usually expressed very clearly and concisely, again, often in ways never heard before.

After each of them had had the chance to tell the Lord of their side of things, and heard the "other side," they would each be given a chance to add anything else, and it was common that most people did decide to add clarifications to the Lord, although these comments were usually pretty brief. We would also offer to let each of them add a third description, although I do not recall that anyone ever did that.

In ALL the times I watched these "comments to the Lord," absolutely NO ONE ever said any unacceptable words, and it was extremely rare that any "intense criticisms" were ever expressed (to the Lord).

Now, AFTER all this, there were ALWAYS two happily smiling people! They had just heard wonderful comments about themselves from their loved one, AND IN FRONT OF THE LORD, where they certainly would never have lied! Once I asked them both if they had anything further to say to the Lord (which sometimes involved a Prayer to Him for Helping!) and they both stood up, and finally first actually saw each other (today). About 80% of the time, they joyously embraced each other, and extensively kissed! Pretty amazing for two people who had wanted to punch each other out a half hour earlier! In one case, I even felt it necessary to terminate the kissing by reminding them that the Lord might be right there watching!

Nearly every couple then left "arm-in-arm"! None of those couples ever saw the need to repeat our experience, even years later. We noted that some of those couples were still arm-in-arm when leaving Church years later!

This might seem that this idea is limited to only Protestant Christians, but I suspect it can have great value in many, many other venues.

Consider Shia Muslims and Sunnite Muslims, who regularly kill each other on encounters. They seem to see NO POSSIBLE RESOLUTION of their religious differences. But what if THREE top Shia Muslim leaders went to a meeting inside the Kaaba in Mecca, and so did THREE top Sunni Muslim leaders, and possibly even THREE top Kurd leaders in Iraq. We would recommend that they possibly meet in the Kaaba and that six or nine inexpensive chairs, similar to what was described above, but now facing TWO very elegant chairs. These two chairs would be for Allah and/or Muhammad, inside THEIR house. How would the Shiites and Sunnites describe other Muslims, IF they felt that Muhammad and/or Allah were (possibly) RIGHT THERE? I think they might be extremely respectful of each other (in describing issues to Muhammad and/or Allah) where they never can do that in modern life!

Consider also the situation where Palestinian Muslims and Jews need to have respectful discussions with each other regarding the Gaza Strip. Maybe they might meet in the Golden Dome in Jerusalem. The preface discussions would need to be a little different, but the fact that they all Worship the very same Lord (of Abraham) could be the center of hope. One group might call Him Jehovah while the other group might call Him Allah.

There are many other possibilities. Instead of Sharia Law being used for Muslim Courtrooms, what if those Courtrooms were re-designed around two elegant chairs, slightly ABOVE the Judge's chair? Would Witnesses LIE in front of a chair which MIGHT contain Muhammad and/or Allah? A Judge might NOT need to impose extreme punishments!




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 as 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 or 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 appropriate. 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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