A Peaceful Alternative
By Rev. Peter Soli
A few years ago a group of
angry church members showed up unannounced at the office of the new pastor. They
were demanding to know why the locks on the church had been changed. They wanted
to know why they could no longer have possession of their church key. While the
key issue was central, other issues from the past started coming up. These
church members were angry and conflicted.
new pastor had the advantage of some basic training in conflict resolution and
was able to contain his fears, stay calm, and set some ground rules for the
meeting. The rules were simple. One person talks at a time. When someone said
something you didn’t agree with, before making your point, you had to restate
the other person’s view. And, the pastor insisted, “We will keep talking
until we reach a win-win solution to our problem.”
challenge before those church members is the same challenge before families,
communities, and countries. How do we resolve our differences in a way that
preserves our life together? Alternatives to a win-win solution are several.
They are: lose-loses (nobody gets anything), win-lose (I win, you lose),
lose-win (I lose, you win) or WIN (I win and I won’t even engage in
competition with you.) None of these solutions are as satisfying as a win-win.
This is a solution that preserves the relationship, strengthens the community,
and sustains our life together. In every other solution there are casualties and
relationships begin to crack apart.
wonder why it is that people do not pursue win-win solutions to their conflicts
with the same passion and persistence that people do to defeat the other person.
I have come up with two primary reasons.
of all, we have been taught that the ultimate solution to a conflict is victory
over the other. This is the win-lose model. It is a model where domination is
always present and it is assumed that there is no alternative. We all recognize
this model: “Only the strong survive.” “Don’t get mad, get even.”
“Failure is not an option.” “Win
at all costs.” Most of our society believes that the only way to effectively
resolve differences is to be strong enough to defeat the opponent and win. As a
result, a win-win solution is rarely pursed.
second obstacle facing us is that while we have been taught how to compete with
each other, we have not been taught how to communicate with each other. We
simply lack skills to negotiate, share power, and achieve win-win solutions.
Without adequate training, practice, or the ability we can’t be expected to
work through disagreements constructively.
believe that many of the problems we have in our community and country are
related to our inability to see the value and importance of win-win solutions to
our conflicts. I also believe that we can learn ways to better communicate,
negotiate, and share power. I look forward to working with others in the area to
start a Community Mediation Group that would provide practical help for people
in the community. This group would help mediate mutually agreeable solutions and
to offer a constructive way to work through disagreements.
dream of living in a community and a country where one is not rendered powerless
because of the power of another or a group. I dream of having decision making
processes that are designed to include the voices of all people. I dream of
community that pursues with patience and persistence solutions that fairly
negotiated, share power, and are win-win.
the way, the church members in conflict over the locks decided to provide 24
hour access to the building by placing a key in an always accessible breezeway
of a member’s house across the street. The problem was resolved and everybody
Soli is pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Alden, MN
and a member of Paths to Peace in Freeborn County. Soli
has completed training in conflict transformation and conflict mediation and
serves as a resource for congregations in transition or conflict.