Daily Devotions

- Getting Along

Working through Conflict

Humans are diverse in thought, opinions, background, and environment, and this diversity often leads us to disagreement with others—sometimes those we are not only closest to but whom we respect the most. We may suddenly find that someone we care about speaks out an idea we had never known they held. We may be surprised to find that when we least expect it, someone challenges us, and we rush to defend our point of view. We may find ourselves in a broken relationship with someone simply because we cannot embrace the diversity that feels like it pummels the truth, leaving only distorted emotions and frayed sensitivities behind.

When conflict swirls around us like a windstorm, and we feel incapable not only of answering the questions, but even of beginning the process of face-to-face conversation, we can find our center again on our journal page. Digging into our own souls, we can write ourselves into a better understanding of our reactions and responses. It can be the very practice of writing that moves us to reconciliation and the ability to embrace those who have seemed so separate from us. The following passages may be helpful in getting you started.

Just as, when we approach God, strife and bitterness cease and we come closer to our brethren, so too when we seek to understand the heart of our brethren, narrowness and selfishness vanish, and we may come nearer to God.
Gates of the House (Shaarei Habayit): The New Union Home Prayerbook
  (Central Conference of American Rabbis/ CCAR Press, 1951), p. 194.

journaling exercises:

  • What are my ten most deeply held beliefs?
  • How did I come to embrace these beliefs, and how have they shaped me?
  • When have my beliefs caused a rift between another and me?
  • How have my beliefs been re-imagined and clarified over the years?
  • How do I respond when my beliefs are challenged?
  • How has listening to others’ beliefs helped sharpen my own?
  • If one or more of my beliefs were proven untrue, how would I feel? What would I do?

A screaming shattered the voices
that had just come together to speak you,
to make of you a bridge
over the chasm of everything.
Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy; Riverhead Books(New York: Penguin Group, 1996), p. 55.

journaling exercises:

  • When there is a chasm between others and myself how can God become a bridge between us?
  • What do I think was on God’s mind when God created us with such diversity?
  • If I were to encounter a person from another planet whose experience was completely different from my own, how might I need to alter my ideas?
  • How has love made it possible to accept something that previously seemed impossible to acknowledge?
  • If I were to bring my ideas before heaven’s gate, what might God say to me about them?

A person isn’t some private entity traveling unaffected through time and space as if sealed off from the rest of the world by a thick shell.
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1975), p. 76.

journaling exercises:

  • If I were on a desert island, how would my understandings about others and myself change? How do I try to put a shell around myself so that others can’t attempt to change my ideas and beliefs?
  • When I am in a discussion with another, when do I feel I want to hold on to my private identity?
  • If I were in a room with 6 people who were different from me, who would they be?
  • If those six people and I were together talking for four hours, what might I learn about myself? About them?

    Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
    —Amos 3:3, King James Version

journaling exercises:

  • Who are the people in my life that I feel unable to walk together with right now?
  • What has made me feel "out of agreement" with them?
  • If we were together in a room with Jesus, how might we both respond to each other?
  • What do I need to relinquish in order to be able to walk together with them again?
  • When we are in heaven together, how will we remember our earthly relationship?
  • What steps can I take now to begin to move toward reconciliation?

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