It is the aspiration shared on countless seasonal greetings — peace on earth. Music and verse speak of it wistfully. When words fail, as in the midst of unthinkable loss in Newtown, Connecticut, it is our paramount hope for all touched by tragedy.
But where are the peace makers? Not the heads of state, or treaty negotiators. Not those whose names will be associated with the global prize.
Where are the makers of everyday peace — in homes, schools, city halls, and corporate boardrooms — those who inspire dialogue and collaboration; and build bridges?
Are there any among us able to question process, probe perspective and debate outcome without engendering adversarial relationship?
In short, where are the leaders who are able to see diverse perspective, hear differing beliefs, erase ultimatums, and facilitate a dialogue that builds on shared vision?
Wherever two or three gather — never mind three-hundred-million-plus — a difference in opinion is certain to arise. Some are insignificant. But dare to delve, and diverse perspectives are a certainty. (An old radio talk show friend used to refer to volatile ground as The Big 4 — sex, religion, politics and rock-and-roll.)
I have always enjoyed vigorous debate. The exercise is healthy. The dialogue can be productive. Unless lines in the sand or litmus tests render the debate a divisive and pointless exercise.
Look around. Wherever progress is minimal (or non-existent) and every action polarizing, check the debate. Chances are the conversations are contentious.
Meanwhile, long-term stability and progress almost always requires collaboration. And a cooperative spirit rarely goes hand-in-hand with lines in the sand.
Two Keys To Makers of Everyday Peace
Anyone can be a peace maker. Each of us can be a change agent. Here are two keys.
- Makers of everyday peace value on-going dialogue above winning a single debate. The goal is continuity — to keep the conversation going.
- Peace makers seek to understand as much as to be understood; conversion takes a backseat to gaining perspective; intentional listening becomes the baseline for communication.
Want to change a discussion that is going nowhere? Build dialogue around these two keys.
We have opportunities each day. Progress will seem slow; but blessed are the peacemakers.