When I started my AmeriCorps year, we had a great training by the local crisis hotline on conflict resolution. The speaker talked about different roles that we take on in conflicts, whether they are with ourselves or with other people. He talked about the roles of perpetrator, victim, and rescuer. The speaker and one of the volunteers from the center did some role play scenarios so that we could see how these roles could shift and interact throughout the resolution of a conflict, and how to step outside of them in order to actually resolve a conflict.

With all of this though, there was one statement that he made at the beginning that struck me more than the rest of his fabulous presentation. He said,

“Remember, people are doing the best they can with the resources and the knowledge they’ve got.”

So those might not have been his exact words, but that’s the sentiment, and I think as long as I remember the heart of the message, I’m good. What he did still shifted my perspective about the work I’m doing and the world in which I live.  This statement shifts the thinking of the people that I’m working with professionally as well as in my personal relationships.

I’ve long drawn my beliefs about interpersonal conflicts from James 4:1-3 “1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Inside each of us are desires. I maintain that there are two selves fighting to see what will happen with one’s life. One desires the good things that God has and longs to treat others with selfless love, and the other is the selfish, sinful nature that comes along with being born  into this fallen world. When I’m more in tune with God, I’m a lot more loving, generous, and selfless. When we’re out of touch, I’m much more inclined to focus on myself. Funny thing, this shift into selfishness–I don’t end up any happier there than I do when I’m serving others and caring for their needs because then I usually end up isolated to in a conflict with someone, and as we all know from experience, neither of those states of existence are much fun.

Anyway, all that history of my conflict theory behind, I really appreciated the presenter at this training for making the  above comment because it helped me to see the other side of any given conflict as a complex cultural and personal belief system coming to surface through the words and actions of a person. If there is someone who “guilt trips” in a conflict, it’s because that’s the only way they know to convince someone to give them what they think they need. They haven’t practiced being direct, or may be afraid of something, and simply may not know that there is any better way to go about getting their needs met. I am trying to take this logic forward with me for personal conflicts and conflicts where I act as mediator. Hopefully passing it along will help at least one other person as well. What do you think? Helpful to know?