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Conflict Myth #1: Peace Is The Absence Of Conflict

I grew up the son of Mennonite missionary parents. Mennonites are a protestant denomination known for their work in peace and nonviolent conflict resolution. The early messages I received growing up were, “Turn the other cheek,” or “Find another way to solve your problem without resorting to violence.” My parents dedicated their lives to building more peaceful and compassionate relationships. I respect and admire them immensely. And I’ve always struggled to reconcile this philosophy with reality.

My formal education includes a PhD in clinical psychology, certification as a conflict mediator, and advanced training in communication models to reduce conflict. I’m no stranger to conflict, having grown up in Botswana, a country neighboring South Africa during apartheid, worked in addictions treatment and marital counseling, and for the past 13 years working with executive leaders who often have a very distorted view of what conflict is and how to handle it.

Peace is NOT the absence of conflict

Here’s what I’ve learned. Don’t confuse peace with tranquility. Don’t confuse lack of shouting with the absence of conflict. I’ve experienced many families, churches, and organizations who claim to be peaceful just because they don’t raise their voices and they “agree to disagree.” Yet the amount of violence in these communities rivals a war zone. Passive-aggressive gossip, manipulation, avoidance, withholding information, bullying and power plays are the rules of the game.

Peace is an active, dynamic, and generative process that requires healthy conflict. If peace means we are getting along, cooperating, and not hurting each other, then we can’t get there without addressing our differences and disagreements. Diversity was built into the universe from the beginning. Embracing and working with it is the only way towards peace, and this requires conflict.

Things to ponder:

  • What did you learn about conflict growing up? Who were your role-models?
  • What is your definition of peace?
  • What’s your perspective on my claim that peace requires healthy conflict?
  • What if one purpose of diversity is to cause conflict, which creates energy? What could that mean?
Conflict Myth #1: Peace Is The Absence Of Conflict

Nathan Regier

Nate Regier, PhD is CEO and Co-founding owner of Next Element, a global leadership communication firm specializing in building cultures of compassionate accountability. A former practicing clinical psychologist, Dr. Regier splits his time between writing, speaking, training, consulting, and developing Next Element's global network of certified trainers. He is co-developer of the Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching system for positive conflict, and has authored two books on drama and conflict; Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires, and Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide For Leading With Compassionate Accountability. Nate is a certifying master trainer in the Process Communication Model®. He lives in Newton, KS, is married and has three daughters. Learn more about Conflict Without Casualties here.


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APA Reference
Regier, N. (2018). Conflict Myth #1: Peace Is The Absence Of Conflict. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 18, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/conflict/2018/10/conflict-myth-1-peace-is-the-absence-of-conflict/

 

Last updated: 19 Sep 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Sep 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.