How do we know that engaging in the process of reconciliation is in order? Why devote the time and energy required in a potentially uncomfortable process to resolve the warring factions within me when I am not assured of a direct, measurable outcome? What difference will it make?
There are scores of reasons to suggest that it is time for each of us to engage in the type of reconciliation about which I am posting these messages. This type of reconciliation is not about putting financial accounts in order. It is not about making things right between two organizations, groups, or people. I am writing about addressing the internal ambivalence that we have about our individual values, incongruent thoughts and choices, and our failures in integrity. This sort of reconciliation seeks to sort out the opposing positions each of us holds within ourselves.
Some signs that this sort of reconciliation is in order are:
- Discomfort around people who are different than me
- Failure to treat everyone with respect
- Limited friendships within narrow demographics
- Refusal to acknowledge others’ group affiliations or using offensive labels for people’s groups
- Inability to notice my prejudices and shortcomings
- Sense of powerlessness to make a difference in the prejudice or discrimination that I see
Of course there are many, many more reasons we might want to reconcile the apparent irreconcilable forces within ourselves. I think that many of us seek to do so when we feel uncomfortable. However, in community development I suggest that these feelings of discomfort, while certainly motivators to take action, do not generally yield the results necessary to make a robust community. Instead, I favor looking at the incidents when I protect myself or avoid situations when I might be confronted with the people and places that can help make me whole. The stark limits in whom I see, when and where I interact with them, how I treat them, and when I intervene on their behalf point to my need for reconciliation, for integrity.
By making sense of my internal inconsistencies in values, plans, and decisions I can contribute to breaking the cycle of violence in communities, restore justice at interpersonal and societal levels, and repair breaches in my relationships in community. I have a better likelihood of approaching my community with humility and a sense of power rather than with a sense that I need to limit and control.
The results of reconciliation are unpredictable. Resolution of the opposing positions I hold within is unlikely to produce a final state or outcome. Instead this resolution of my ambivalence results in plateaus of peace, plateaus of unknown size and outline that permit more people and options in my life because my avoidant or protective behaviors are less important to me. I need less protective tissue because my ambivalence has been confronted.