As the mother of five (two sons, three daughters) whose ages are separated, oldest to youngest, by only seven years, I've learned a lot about conflict resolution. Whenever The Sage or I intervene in quarrels or fights, the first words we inevitably hear are, "(S)He started it!" Our response is always along the lines of, "Who's going to end it?"
There are many good reasons for that. Here are just a few of the more obvious ones:
(1) The person who actually threw the first punch is not always really the person who "started it." The punch may be a response to an extreme verbal provocation ("She said my best friend Marsha dressed like a ho!"), a long-suffered injustice ("He always borrows my videos without returning them and you won't do anything about it!"), or a perception that it is a defensive move ("She kept acting like she was going to punch ME!").
(2) Even if the person who "started it" is in the wrong, retaliation could lead to endless counter-punches that escalate into full-fledged violence, which means I lose a child.
(3) Other, innocent, people could get caught and hurt in the crossfire. ("Yow! I was just trying to get to my room!")
(4) One of the children could win the fight only to incite fear or hatred in another child that could lead to future partisan fights ("The one who won was in the wrong! Now I hate my brother and I hate my sister who sided with him!"), creating a full-fledged family war.
(5) We're Christians, which means we believe Jesus knew what he was talking about and we'd be smart to follow his example. He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," not "Blessed are those who counterstrike." He said, "Turn the other cheek," not "If someone strikes you, hit him back twice as hard." He didn't give any convenient outs or caveats to his commandments, such as if the other person was of another religion or nationality, or seemed like a really bad guy. This might not be relevant to non-Christian families, but since American policy, both domestic and foreign, seems these days to defer to the "Christianists," shouldn't those policies at least consider the wisdom of the first, and definitive, "Christian"?
(6) Taking that example, we're parents (procreators, or pro-creators, which means we've created in partnership with God), and in light of that knowledge ("For God so loved the world...") we've always said, "There are no disposable children." That means, roughly, that whatever the problem, we have to work it out. It's not good enough to say, "You broke the rules, so you're out." Somehow, someway, we have to pursue a solution. (In our religion, that resulted in "That He gave His only begotten son...") Otherwise, what will the children who remain believe? That love is conditional?
How does this relate to the current crisis in the Middle East?
To refer to a cliche, "If you don't understand it, I can't explain."
But for the unenlightened, I will try. Our youngest son had a desperate drug problem when he was a young teen. It caused tremendous conflict with our other children. They resented the resources (time, money, emotional commitment) that were required to help him through that time. He emerged after several years as a bulwark of the family, an excellent scholar, champion athlete, best of all a peacemaker. He is beloved by all, including his siblings.
Imagine what might have happened had he been written off because of past bad acts.
Back to the Middle East analogy: former foes can make excellent allies ... if we talk, if we are committed to the pursuit of peace, if we suffer through the bad times because we believe that the payoffs will be worth it. The short-sighted and militarists will always reap immediate political benefits in such an environment. The visionaries, the statesmen, will defer those because of their belief (dare I call it faith?) in the ultimate, and much greater, benefits of peace.
As a parent who has seen the results of the latter in a familial setting, I opt for the longer, more difficult but more rewarding, road to peace.
Tags: Middle East violence