The purpose of this post is to answer the question, “What is a mediator?” A mediator is a trusted, neutral person who facilitates a process designed to empower parties to recognize find their own, satisfactory solutions to intractable conflict. Each word in the sentence above has important meaning.
Jesus had a remarkable gift for seeing through everything superficial, for peeling back the layers of the dusty, superficial robes of identity we wear, to peer into a person’s inner soul. Whether speaking to a Roman Centurian, to a Samaritan adulteress, or to a distinguished Rabbi, Jesus always seemed to see beyond title or position and to respond to the deeper thoughts and real need of the individual he was relating to.
The term mediation doesn’t describe a particular type of meeting. It is more accurate to say that the term “mediation” describes a new and fundamentally different approach to conflict.
Mediation is a collaborative and consensus building model of conflict resolution. Instead of deciding a dispute between parties and making a ruling, as a judge or arbitrator does, a mediator will attempt to lead the parties to agreement among themselves.
Thus, while mediation is typically described as a “meeting,” and mediation does indeed often take place in the context of a meeting, there are many different forms of mediation and many different types of meetings used in mediation.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”John 15:12
If you are facing conflict in your personal life, your professional life, or in your church congregation, you are not alone! There is division and dissension among Christians and in churches across the United States. The key issue in every dispute is not whether conflict will happen, but how we will respond to it when it does happen.
(image Watts, The Good Samaritan, courtesy Wikimedia commons)
Will we respond in love?
And, what does it mean, this commandment to “love” one another?
Talking about forgiveness ….
My blog post a few days ago was about the intellectual concept of forgiveness. But there’s much more to forgiveness than merely what we “think” about or “decide” to do. When bad things happen to us, our whole being, including our body, is affected. This, in turn, affects how we relate to ourselves and to each other. It’s not my goal to beat people over the head and be judgmental about telling people they should “forgive” or “just move on”. That is not helpful. My goal is to help people reach an authentic state of peace. For a person who has been the victim of trauma, this can be challenging.
Cutting edge research shows that people who are victimized by violence need treatment for more than their physical wounds. They need help in rewriting the story of their lives in a way that gives coherence and meaning.
The following video illustrates the “Snail Model” of trauma healing, as taught by the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. The Snail Model is so named because it describes a spiraling model where conflict begets more conflict, in a circular fashion, unless some intervention can break the cycle and cause the circle to change shape into a spiral towards healing. In other words, it is a model for breaking the cycle of conflict, basically providing a roadmap for people who have experienced painful events in their lives to see a process by which they may be healed, not just physically but mentally and spiritually. A printable illustration by Olga Botcharova can be found HERE.
If you are suffering from the effects of violence, or if you know someone who is, I encourage you to print this and share it with the person who is affected.
Sometimes even just seeing a model like this will result in an “aha” moment. The person will see where they are on the cycle and gain insight that will help them heal. Not everyone needs (or has the luxury of engaging in) therapy with a caring and trusted counselor. But regardless of whether the mental and spiritual wounds from trauma is small or large, it can help a person just to know that what they are experiencing is normal, that they are not alone.
Panic, anger, sleeplessness, fantasies of revenge — these are not signs of insanity, they are normal. And there IS a path to healing. It may be slow, it may be challenging. But a person who has been victimized by crime, by war, by a terrible auto accident, can walk that path to healing. No matter what the physical wounds, a person who has experienced trauma can can achieve spiritual and mental peace so that they can sleep at night and feel right with the world.
No matter what your circumstances, I want to assure you, there IS HOPE for peace.
This is a particular issue not just with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also for anyone who has been affected by crime or violence. Even, perhaps, in our own families. Whether this model may apply to you, or to someone you know, please be aware of it and be ready to share the hope, and the help, when the time comes.
I hope you find this video helpful. If you do, please leave a comment to share how it helped you.
(Originally posted on Peaceworks blog, 2/14/10)
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m posting this YouTube video which demonstrates how to express negative feelings to our loved ones in ways that open rather than shut down communication.
Nonviolent communication, or NVC, is a method of communicating which was pioneered by Marshall Rosenberg, who founded the Center For Nonviolent Communication. (This video was produced by Bay Area Nonviolent Communication (@BayNVC on Twitter).) If you want to learn more, I highly recommend the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life which can be purchased from Amazon.com.
The concepts of Nonviolent Communication ( NVC) are easy to grasp, and I encourage everyone to become familiar with them. The techniques of NVC help us to communicate on a deeper level, getting to the level of feelings and needs rather than principles and positions. The basic principle is to focus on what is sometimes referred to as “I” statements, and to formulate our requests into an explanation that includes our observations, feelings, needs, and then requests. Each of these elements takes some simple training to understand. It’s easy to grasp the theory, but sometimes much harder to overcome old habits to put the new ways into practice!
For me personally, putting the concepts of communication into practice is the larger challenge. It requires that we abandon old, negative ways of relating and that we adopt new ways of communicating that are more positive. I re-read this book at least once per year, and I often share it with clients. It’s an easy book to read, has simple charts that help one put the new principles into practice immediately, and many of my clients report that it helped them greatly.
Here are links to three posts in Skinner’s personal peacemaking blog, Peaceworks, on the topic of Restorative Justice:
Post #1: What Is Restorative Justice
Post #2: How Restorative Justice Works
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:7-9)
Enjoy this video:
Skye Jethani has said: “Judgment causes us to see the other not as a person, but as a thing, as less human and therefore less valuable. And once we do that to a person or a group of people, it opens the door to all kinds of terrible evil — segregation, injustice, abuse, even genocide. . . . The Christian’s job is to agree with God that every person you meet was worth Jesus dying for. We cannot ascribe that kind of value and dignity to people and condemn them as worthless at the same time. It’s just not possible” (Quotation is from “Judge Not”, http://www.skyejethani.com/judge-not/595/, accessed October 29, 2010).
When I am mediating, I sometimes find myself taking a bird’s eye view, and I am amazed. Mediation works, and it often works almost like magic. I’ve asked myself, what is it about mediation that is so special? Is it some special trick that I do? Is it a formula? Is it convincing parties that they need to “settle” their case? None of the above!
Yes, there is technique and skill involved in being a good mediator. Yes, the personality of the mediator is important. The amazing thing, though, is that none of these is the “magic” factor. It is not “I” who resolves the issues. It’s as if I’m merely a channel for something else, something deeper. For, in actuality, the parties to mediation are the ones who help themselves. While I do provide specific tools, processes, and an avenue for parties to work through conflict that otherwise they could not have resolved on their own, the fact is that once these tools are in place, the conflict sometimes almost seems to resolve itself.
The magic of mediation is the fact that it works so well. Often, not only is agreement reached but both parties are happy, or at least feel that the conflict was addressed as well as it could be. This level of satisfaction with the process and the outcome, and the “magic” of reaching agreement after months or years of intractable conflict, is even more astounding when one considers that the mediator does not impose their own judgment. The parties come up with the solutions all by themselves. (Self determination is actually a necessary part of authentic mediation. The parties must have 100% “ownership” over the solution.) And yet, the process is so powerful! Something about mediation enables the parties to achieve a different level of consciousness, awareness, or cooperation. Solutions come up that no one ever would have thought of before.
It was Einstein who said something like, “A problem cannot be solved by applying the same level of consciousness that created it.” Sometimes I feel as if the parties are lifted up to a different level, as a result of the mediation process, to where they can have a different perspective, or a different kind of ability to see and understand their conflict.
Walking in the woods the other day, I came across a scene that reminded me of how I sometimes think about mediation.
Imagine you are walking through a swamp. Conflict is like that swamp.
Conflict is not fun! Conflict is not just cold and wet. Conflict is also muddy and mucky.
As you wade into conflict, you don’t know how deep it is. Even the shortest distance can become impassable.
You get bogged down in it. It can even be dangerous. You wonder, how to get out.
Often, parties to a conflict can’t see their way to a “win-win” solution. They lack confidence that things can be worked out peacefully. They are angry. They don’t trust the other side. They think they have to go to court and have a judge impose an outside solution, in order to resolve the conflict.
The good news is that if both parties will come to mediation, there’s a good chance that they can resolve the issues on their own. For even the most difficult conflict, mediation actually provides a path.
The mediator doesn’t come up with the answers. The mediator doesn’t do your work for you.
What the mediator provides is a process. That process is like a boardwalk to help you get through it yourselves.
The neutrality of the mediator, and the skill of the mediator in providing a process, provides a structure and a system that helps parties address their conflict in an understandable, even minded way.
It gets you out of the mud and onto a dry spot where you can think and move forward.
The point of mediation is that it helps you focus on where you need to be, where you want to go, what your long term goals are. And then it helps you – both parties – find a way to get there. Mediation provides parties with a neutral and fair mechanism to work through conflict. Once parties find the bridge to agreement, the rest is often like magic.
Do you wish you could find an answer to painful or difficult conflict? To explore whether mediation might be an option for you, fill out the contact form below: