Collaboration is when you are not going into a meeting to show what you know, but going into a meeting to show what you don’t know yet.” – Bevin Bell-Hall, puppeteer

This could also be described as an attitude of unknowing. When we listen to people to form a response, then we are not truly listening. When  we listen to learn, we enter into a mutual agreement that uplifts all.

In peacemaking circles,* often the parties that are interacting with one another are at entirely different parts of their journeys. The person-who-did-harm and the harmed-one may not be at a place where they can sit together without their own brokenness hurting the other people in the circle. In those cases, rather than leaving either party behind, I would suggest that each party have their own circles until such a time that they can unite and repair the breach between them. I think that would be the peacemaking way. It is also the time-consuming, hard way. Of course, the parties have to want to work towards healing. This also means they need to recognize that they have done harm or have been harmed.

It is hard to see yourself as a victim in need of healing. It is hard to see yourself as a perpetrator of harm. Nobody likes these labels. In the broader scheme of our national identity, racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia, it becomes even harder because some people say, “I see all people the same.” And then they support policies and politicians that make it harder to exist. They don’t acknowledge the cry that is, “Please just see me.” If we truly saw each other. Listened to each other. Healed with each other. We would be in a different place. If we could see the person in front of us as a whole person that fits into a system that goes towards healing for all, then we could say, “Your life matters.” In order to do that, they would have to admit that they do harm. Are an oppressor. Come from a system of oppression. That is work harder than a march in the streets.

This is the failure of our religious institutions and largely the Christian Church in the United States. It is the system that I am intimately familiar with and love. And if we can’t critique our own systems, then we should not be willy nilly critiquing other folks’ systems.

Until recent years, the church and the USA have walked hand-in-hand together. Proudly. That is where the nationalism and patriotism and idolatry of the church has grown. The church has identified with creating an idealized version of society while holding apart healing. Women have been told to stay in abusive relationships because that is their place (and this still happens). Couples have been told to not marry because they were not of the same ethnicity (this still happens). And lovers have been told not to marry because they were not of the right gender (this still happens.) This still happens. Good grief. It still happens.

What if the church, as an institution that has been shadowing the growth of the US, stood apart and declared itself a place of healing? That embraced the victim and the oppressor? That held them in healing until they could come together? That said to each life, “You matter!” And then brought them together to say, “We matter. Together. We matter.”

Well, I suppose I dream a dead dream. Sometimes it feels that way. But I don’t believe that. We who strive will keep striving. And in the Peacemaking Circle way, the only person you can change is yourself. So if I become more peaceful and more peacemaking, that is all that can be expected.

And so it falls on the shoulders of those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Listen to each other.
Listen with love, in your heart.

Seek peace.
Peace with listening, in your heart.

Find love.
Love with justice, in your heart.

Be just.
Justice with mercy, in your heart.

Offer mercy.
Mercy that listens, in your heart.

Peacemaking Circles are certainly one way to offer this healing to one another. Only in that it embraces these principles. Finds the way that brings healing. Creates “communities of peace where everyone belongs and matters.”*

What will you see or hear today?

Onward!

Peacemaking Circles come to me via Saroeum Phoung who was taught by the Tagish Tlingit people. It is a tradition very similar to group Spiritual Direction.

King County Peacemaking Coordinating Team vision: Creating communities of peace where everyone belongs and matters.

-© 2017, Terri Stewart

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