Conflict resolution is conceptualized as the methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict and retribution. Committed group members attempt to resolve group conflicts by actively communicating information about their conflicting motives or ideologies to the rest of group (e.g., intentions; reasons for holding certain beliefs) and by engaging in collective negotiation.
- The community holds the crucial responsibility to resist overreaction to difference, and to offer alternatives of understanding and complexity. We have to help each other illuminate and counter the role of overstating harm instead of using it to justify cruelty. I suggest that we have a better chance at interrupting unnecessary pain if we articulate our shared responsibility in creating alternatives. Looking for methods of collective problem-solving make these destructive, tragic leaps more difficult to accomplish. People who are being punished for doing nothing, for having normative conflict, or for resisting unjustified situations, need the help of other people. While there are many excuses for not intervening in unjust punishment, that intervention is, nonetheless, essential. Without the intervention that most people are afraid to commit to, this escalation cannot be interrupted. In other words, because we won’t change our stories to integrate other people’s known reasons and illuminate their unknown ones, we cannot resolve Conflict in a way that is productive, equitable, and fair. This is why we (individuals, couples, cliques, families, communities, nations, peoples) often pretend, believe, or claim that Conflict is, instead, Abuse and therefore deserves punishment. That the mere fact of the other person’s difference is misrepresented as an assault that then justifies our cruelty and relinquishes our responsibility to change. Consequently, resistance to that false charge of Abuse is then positioned as further justification of even more cruelty masquerading as “punishment,” through the illogic at base of refusing accountability and repair.
- While perfection is never achievable, positive change is always possible. Resolution doesn’t mean that everyone is happy, but it does mean that perhaps fewer people are being blamed for pain they have not caused, or being cast as the receptacle of other people’s anxieties, so that fewer people are dehumanized by false accusation.
- If a person cannot solve a conflict with a friend, how can they possibly contribute to larger efforts for peace? If we refuse to speak to a friend because we project our anxieties onto an email they wrote, how are we going to welcome refugees, immigrants, and the homeless into our communities? The values required for social repair are the same values required for personal repair.
- Just as a group of bad friends reinforces unilateral supremacist thinking by encouraging group punishment and shunning of the conflicted other, good friends insist that people think twice, to look to their own participation in conflict instead of calling the police. Good groups help their family, friends, and community members recognize and dissipate anxiety rather than joining them in acting out cruelly against others.
- Certainly I am not a practitioner of doing nothing. There is little more destructive than the passive bystander allowing cruelty to be freely imposed. I’m the opposite of a Buddhist, as I believe in action. But there are all kinds of actions: some are designed to acknowledge and reveal the sources of conflict and pain in order to resolve them, and some are designed to obscure those sources so that resolution/change can never occur. Which one we choose, of course, is related to how we see ourselves and others, and what we don’t see about ourselves and others. There is no evidence that time heals all wounds, or even most wounds; instead, it freezes unnecessary enmity and makes it harder to overcome. Time allows perpetrators to forget the pain they have imposed.