The ability to remember makes it hard for us to be reconciled with those who have harmed us.
This remembering lies at the core of our unwillingness to extend a hand of forgiveness toward those who have wronged us, whether it be in the business world, the academic world or even our families. This remembering lies at the core of our willingness to engage in vengeance, to couch and justify judgments and to close ourselves off from the other party in a conflict, under the guise of “self-protection.”
Many people hide behind their memories of “who did what when to who” in a conflict, in order to avoid letting go of the emotional pain associated with impact of the conflict; but, many more people would rather be reconciled to those who have wronged them in the past and continue in relationship.
Human beings are built for relationship, not ritualized conflict. And in non-Western cultures, where communitarianism is valued over individualism and conflicts are seen as tearing at the root fabric of relationship, the ritualized process of reconciliation is framed in the language of restoration.
In the West, though, outside of family and school we focus too much about the surface of relationships. Exploring this pathology is another blog post for another, day. The point is, we must figure out three things when we feel like we are ready to be reconciled with the one who has hurt us:
We are beginning a new relationship with an old person, and what happened in a past conflict no longer determines the current parameters of the new relationship. This is the hardest part of reconciliation, because we often want to hold the other party continually accountable for what we think is their part of the conflict, regardless of whether or not the situation has changed.
We are surrendering our “right” to revenge, continued blame, and “dredging up the past.” This is the second hardest part of reconciliation, because we project our view of the conflict onto the other party, and subscribe to them motives that we have secretly inside ourselves. Where there is fierce conflict, there needs to be equally fierce reconciliation.
We are reconciled to people, not to brands, organizations, governments, corporations or even neighborhoods or families. This is the third hardest part, which paradoxically, makes it the easiest to nod our heads and accept when we hear it (or read it). However, really consider it: When people litigate, they are looking for an apology (more on this phenomenon later) from a human being. Too many of us hide away from relationships that make us uncomfortable, or that expose our vulnerabilities in ways that make us seem weak. Reconciliation only occurs when people are exposed to other people and experience their desire for a renewed relationship. Systems and structure cannot engage in reconciliation (or even apology) in any kind of meaningful way.
The ability to remember is a choice. Just as the ability to reconcile is. Both require active participation on the part of one (or both) parties to a conflict. They also require repeated refreshing at the well of relationship.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org