/Sunday, March 14, 2021
CBS sure promoted the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan as if it were the event of the decade. Why not? For millions of us COVID-19 captives, lurking in our houses, tired of Netflix and Prime Video offerings, this was going to be different. The promos promised the potential of a bare-knuckle brawl between the elite of the elites, with Oprah as the referee with her millions of devoted fans.
Fizzle …. Kerplunk!
Turns out this was no different than the daily news of everyday life. Except this was two parties airing their dispute before millions of viewers.
We face similar issues in our own families. COVID-19 has shown us our dark sides like few events ever could. It has also shown us our strong, resilient and loving lives – like no event ever could.
This is the nature of conflict.
Listening: The Essence of Conflict Resolution
There is a 3,000 year-old story told about an outcast named David who sought to destroy a very wealthy member of the “elite” named Nabal.
- David tried to be friends with Nabal but was rejected by him.
- David got ticked, gathered his entourage, and went on the attack. (Sound like the Prince and Meghan?)
- On his way to destroy Nabal, a mediator named Abigail shows up and makes an appeal for peace to the outcast David.
- David listens, the appeal works and David tells Abigail that there will be peace between him and Nabal.
The essence of resolving conflict involves the seemingly lost art of listening. David listened to Abigail. From the Oprah interview and the aftermath, it is apparent that neither side in the Crown’s conflict listened to the other side.
It can be like that in my home.
In our close contact, in-home, COVID world, we sometimes find it painfully apparent (though we are alone together, and we deeply love each other), how challenging it can be to listen to each other.
We find ourselves too often talking at each other instead of talking to each other.
How Listening Plays an Important Role in Mediation
As an added part of my pastoral training and education, I took many courses to become a certified mediator for the lower courts in Maricopa County (Phoenix) Arizona.
For three years I volunteered to mediate disputes between people. It may have been:
- tenant/landlord disputes
- property damage disputes
- or working with couples with children seeking a divorce. If that failed it meant involvement in creating a plan for custody and property distribution.
The role was to resolve issues without going to the judge.
I was successful over 90% of the time when I could get people to listen to the other's position. Our goal was to help people avoid going to a judge who, as I liked to say, “will make a decision neither of you will like”.
Any success I had was not due to my wisdom or brilliance (those of you who know me will agree I possess neither). Success is based on getting two parties to listen and hear the other side - to the point where they understand the position of the other person. David heard and listened to Abigail and bloodshed was avoided. Read 1 Samuel 25 – it is a great story!
The Importance of Listening
I learned the importance of listening from many sources. It was the primary teaching in my mediation training. I heard lectures and training in Seminary on the art of listening. But the greatest teaching source we have comes from some comments Jesus makes which are sandwiched between some parables in Matthew 18:15-17.
Jesus addresses conflict reconciliation. He says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.”
Jesus thinks listening is important.
When my wife Chris and I experience conflict, it usually stems from one or both of us talking at the other instead of talking to the other, or we do not listen and hear what the other is saying because we are not paying attention to them. Regardless of fault, the Prince and the Queen might have avoided the painful situation they now find themselves in if they had just talked to and listened to each other. I think we can learn from them.
We live in a time of competing rhetoric. Polarization grips our input of media and our output of action. I encourage us all (me included), to relax our dogmatism and actively listen for understanding to those around us.
I also think it is important to pray for those involved in conflicts like the Prince and the Queen.
It is only through seeking after God that we find lasting peace. Listening to God and listening to each other will bring understanding resulting in love.
When Rick Burdett was a kid, he dreamed of being a professional football player. Now, he’s the Chief Operations Officer at Outreach Canada. Before joining OC in 2019, Rick served as an executive pastor in two churches over 22 years. If Rick had a free afternoon, you might find him fishing, kayaking, bike riding or napping. Rick is passionate about working with and supporting people who are sacrificially loving lost people into the kingdom of God. He loves listening to the stories of how God is using team members to bless our culture & world.