It’s human to disagree, and inevitable some of those disagreements will become serious. On the other side, peace, and conflict resolution are generally offered as part of a spiritual path. We are to practice love, compassion, and reconciliation. One of the things I have learned over the years is this only works if both parties want to resolve and reconcile. If you’re dealing with a user, a power seeker, an abuser or someone else of unpleasant inclinations, reconciliation just opens the door to more hurt.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to decide if reconciliation will bring peace, or further wounding, is to examine the price tag. There is always a cost to making peace with someone else. Some costs are perfectly acceptable – admitting any way in which you were genuinely in the wrong, for example. Sometimes we have to recognise that other people mess up for reasons, and they aren’t awful people even if they did something hurtful. We’re all learning, we’re all finite, we all make bad calls, or don’t know enough and so forth. If the price tag is that you just let go of this and give the person a second chance, because they’re sorry and it seems genuine, it’s a fair price to pay.
Sometimes the price tag is a painful working through of what went wrong and why. When mistakes or issues on both sides collide to create a problem, unpicking can hurt, but is possible, and is often worth going through because so much can be learned from it.
Other price tags are available. When you’re going to have to be really sorry, and really repentant, and have that wrong thing you did brought up over and over, reconciliation is expensive. When you think there’s shared blame, and other person will only accept making you responsible, reconciliation is hard, and perhaps futile. When you feel deeply hurt, or wronged, and your pain is treated like an attack on the other person, reconciliation can be dangerous. Being pressured to accept the damaging behaviour of someone who has more power than you, is dangerous.
If you’re in the wrong, there should be space to explain how you see things – many of us make innocent mistakes for honest and human reasons. Room to explain is important, especially if you’re going to accept responsibility, not deny it. If the mistake is honest, then the price tag of acceptance should lead to a much more comfortable situation and viable ways forward. If it doesn’t, ask questions.
Real reconciliation not only deals with the immediate conflict, but reduces the scope for conflict ahead. This is to be welcomed. Peace for the sake of peace can be really short term, sowing the seeds for the next round of conflict. Peace can allow perpetrators of unpleasantness to carry on unchallenged. It can increase the vulnerability and suffering of victims. When we can make peace with each other’s foibles and short comings, the world is a better place. When making peace allows the bad stuff to continue, the desire for peace becomes part of the problem.