Tag Archives: otherization

Our Foolish Fragile Fences

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. Ephesians 2:13-14

dividing fence

We all build fences. It is an essential part of the human condition. We categorize and re-categorize ourselves and others over and over again in order to protect our fragile egos and in order to minimize any complex thinking required to really see others. We are quick to identify differences which separate us and we “otherize” anyone we do not agree with or do not fully understand. We build fences. And we do this within the church.

Apparently, the single most effective tool for breaking down fences between people or groups of people is to identify a bigger, more important dividing line. Having found that more significant division, most of the smaller ones suddenly seem less important and may dissolve altogether. You have experienced this.

Take, for example, the deep, deep political divide the United States was experiencing after the 2000 Presidential election…the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Does the term “hanging chad” ring a bell? Remember how very deeply this country was split right down the middle? We had almost a full year of political fights over those election results. But then, on September 11 of the following year, the greatest catastrophe this country has ever known was inflicted upon us. Suddenly, those deep, deep dividing lines seemed unimportant, because now there was a much bigger, more important dividing line…one that ran between this country and its terrorist foes. This country has never been more “unified” than in the days and weeks immediately following that event. Democrats and Republicans became …

The Heart of Your Conflict

Tuesday Re-mix:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them.For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23

If you’re a peacemaker, you need to have read The Anatomy of Peace, a publication of the Arbinger Institute. My first time through it,  I also happened to be working through the gospel of Mark in my church’s regular Bible study. As so often happens, both lessons converged for me.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAeF-pGoAxM&w=560&h=315]

By far the most difficult task before me in any mediation of any conflict (church or otherwise) is getting a conflicted party to quit pointing to all the flaws in the other party and to look inward, at his/her own heart and how he/she has contributed to the conflict. So difficult is it, in fact, that when it does happen it almost always represents an important “a-ha” moment in the peace process.

I think that, for people who value the Holy Scripture, it has the power to bring about that kind of reflection. Words like Jesus’ in Mark 7 can cause us to reflect a little deeper than just our surface “position” on a given issue, and rather consider our “heart” and how we have chosen to express that position. The writers of The Anatomy of Peace refer to it as our “way of being” or as a “heart at war” as opposed to a “heart at peace”.

I see it in every conflict. It is not so much a party’s position or stance on an issue which causes conflict to escalate. Our position is external to us. What escalates the conflict (what “defiles” us) is our …

Red Flags of Brokenness

Tuesday Re-mix –

Broken relationships are like infections, they only get worse with time, and the consequences can be devastating.

They almost always start the same way.  There are hurt feelings which go unaddressed.  Maybe there was bad behavior involved, or maybe there was just an oversight.  Maybe there was no wrong doing at all.  But feelings got hurt and were left that way with no meaningful attempt to deal with them.  The injured person tries to ignore the pain or tries to hurt the other person in return, but the pain itself is left to fester, much like leaving an infection unattended.  Very soon after that, the relationship is broken.

WARNING!

But like the infection, the damage then is only beginning.  There are actual stages of brokenness in the relationship.  They can be identified, even measured to some extent.  There is a common progression, a typical stage-by-stage process which every broken relationship goes through.  The stages represent some clear “red flags” which I can use to check myself.  When I see these things happening in me, I can know I have crossed a line and need to do something about it.  Depending on the person and the circumstances, some may go through the stages quickly, and others more slowly.  But when my relationship with you breaks,the progression is fairly predictable:

Stage 1: “Otherization” – You determine that I am no longer “one of you”.  I am suddenly different.  I have a different character, a different essence.  This represents a distinct change in “us”.  You “otherize” me when you suddenly choose to focus on what is different and you choose to ignore all our history which may show otherwise.  Maybe this distancing is just a defense mechanism, or maybe it is a conscious choice.  Either way, it is taking a …