Imagine there is a Book of Peace. It determines who gets to live in harmony. Would you like to be inscribed in it? Who do you think is the author?
Set aside, just for the next few minutes, any beliefs you may hold about higher powers, master plans for each living being in the universe, free will and the like. Now ask yourself a very practical question: When it comes to your relationships with your family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors etc. – who decides whether you get along swimmingly or you keep locking horns? Who inscribes you in the Book of Peace?
Here’s what I think: You do. You write the Book of Peace. You choose the protagonists and the story line. You choose whether there’s harmony or strife.
I ask each of my clients in my conflict resolution practice: What needs to happen for you to make peace? Many people point to the other person and claim it’s all up to him. They themselves have neither done anything wrong in the past, nor are they doing anything wrong right now or planning to do anything wrong in the future (check whether halo is sitting properly). Well, maybe they could have behaved a little bit better (slight halo adjustment), but whatever they did clearly pales in comparison to his misdeeds. In other words, the conflict is all about the other person – he started it, so he is the only one who can end it. It’s up to him to inscribe them in the Book of Peace.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
He may have started the conflict, but you can still try to end it. Peace, unlike the proverbial good things in life, will not come to those who wait. You create harmony or conflict with what you think, say and do, and with what you don’t think, say and do. You write the Book of Peace.
Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. (Benjamin Franklin)
He may be writing a conflict story at the moment, but remember that he is not the only writer in town. You write the story called “My Life.” What makes this complicated is that you are also a protagonist in other people’s life stories. Those other writers have their own ideas about what your character was thinking, must be feeling, meant to say, and should have done. And those ideas may be very different from yours.
But here’s the thing: Whatever other people may be writing about you in their stories, you still write your own story. You don’t have to perform in someone else’s war drama, or grant someone else a starring Rambo role in your own novel. You can pick up your pen at any time and take the story line in a different direction.
If you’re a protagonist in someone else’s epic of permanent strife, consider this: Perhaps he simply doesn’t know how to write a peace story. Would you rather wait for him to figure it out, or would you prefer to do some writing yourself? Have you told him what you think needs to happen to make peace? Or are you assuming he knows what he needs to do and he just doesn’t want to do it?
Stop waiting and assuming, and start writing your Book of Peace. Read your book out loud – to him, not just to yourself or to other people. Tell him what you need to make peace. Offer ideas on how to move forward, and invite his input. Ask what you can do to facilitate the process. Once he is introduced to your Book of Peace, he may be more motivated to change his own story line. Or not. You won’t know until you try.
You are not a helpless puppet in someone else’s story.
When it comes to addressing conflict, take the first step. Don’t wait for someone else to inscribe you in the Book of Peace. Pick up your pen and start writing.