by Michelle E. Armster
The panoply of peacebuilding provides a plethora of ways to intervene in conflicted or harmful situations. Depending on the conflict or harm, the peacebuilder is challenged to develop a process or activity to address the issue, conflict or harm. The ultimate goal of the process or activity is to provide a space and way that some semblance of resolution- such as reconciliation, understanding or a commitment to changing harmful behavior- could occur.
As a practitioner, I am invited to this role through referrals. Churches, agencies, organizations and individuals will contact me and I then embark on the path of assessing the situation, recommending a process and providing the services. Oftentimes, I am not involved and that makes my role as an impartial facilitator desirable. But the key to these interventions is an invitation.
This past month, I have been challenged by circumstances in my personal life. The first situation involved a runaway child who found refuge in my home and my attempts to assist her and her mother in reconciling their relationship. Secondly, a neighbor, with profound mental health issues, believes her son and live-in girlfriend are trying to kick her out of “her” house. Last, a very good friend was found dead and many of her family and friends are having difficulty with her untimely, sudden and mysterious death.
In each situation, I contemplated my place and role. As somewhat of an insider in each situation, how can I and when do I speak into each? As I observe and assess each situation, what process would I suggest and who would facilitate? And, if the truth be told, do I have the time and energy to invest?
It is not that I do not care. I found myself empathizing with each tear of betrayal, fear, grief, and anger. But, I have found, the peacebuilding opportunities that appear in my personal life are the most difficult. Why? Well, because I am a stakeholder. My desire is, in each circumstance, to have healthy relationships and encourage wholeness. However, my fear is that I will be or get it wrong and I would do damage to relationships that are dear to me. Secondly, because I am part of the milieu of in each situation, I want to move to solutions quicker. The discomfort of the present space is painful. Watching others pain is uncomfortable. Yet, I am keenly aware of the complicated nuances of each conflict/harm/issue and know that a quick and easy solution or resolution or whatever- is not possible.
And so, I stay in there. I stay by looking for opportunities to say a word or two of encouragement. I allow myself to be a present and active listener. I imagine myself as an impartial outsider analyzing each situation, developing a process, making recommendations and deciding what services I could provide and who i would recommend.
For me, the question of when to intervene or not is the most difficult in my personal life. Yet I am committed to these moments of liminality and believe that, if I stay open, I may help to bring peace.