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Causes and Resolution of Conflict Part 1

Even people with the best intentions hurt the feelings of others or become a party to conflict. Good-hearted people reflect on the situation and take responsibility to make amends, refining their character in the process and, hopefully, achieving reconciliation.

Too often there is little motivation to resolve conflicts.

We may ask why should we invest effort to resolve family strife. The answer lies in understanding the value of the family. Similar reluctance may be found on the national level. When we love our country, we will be motivated to work to resolve its problems.

Considering the devastation of modern warfare and the persistence of ethnic violence, it is very ambitious to address the topic of the causes and resolution of conflict. There is a basic human longing for the happiness that results from living according to universal principles. However, lasting happiness seems a distant dream when struggles keep arising within us, in our families, and in our larger environment.

Conflict varies in scope. We want to be at peace within ourselves, but we struggle with contradictory desires and try to deal with our fears, anxieties, resentments, guilt, anger, and addictions. We are torn between our ideals and the reality around us.

We find conflicts among family members, with friends and neighbors, at school, and at work. Those who should be our partners of love may sometimes be a burden and an obstacle in our search for emotional satisfaction. Some disputes arise from opposing interests, while others may come from envy, resentment, jealousy, or even irritation caused by ordinary differences among people. Conflicts range in intensity from feelings of animosity to verbal aggression to physical violence.

Conflicts in society take many different forms, from political, economic, and ideological disputes to ethnic and religious strife. These may lead to abuse, injustice, aggression, and even war. Many parts of the world experience ongoing conflict.

However, people of outstanding character have been able to rise above long-standing patterns of injustice and conflict and bring reconciliation. For example, South Africa faced a potentially explosive racial conflict as blacks mounted violent protests against the oppressive apartheid regime. A highly respected black leader, Nelson Mandela, had been imprisoned for 28 years by the white government, and people in the nation and around the world were pressing for his release. President F. W. De Klerk knew that if he liberated Mandela it would mean the end of his government and his position. Against the advice of his party he released Mandela from prison in 1990. Mandela's appeal to end the violence opened the way to a peaceful transition to black rule. Full scale conflict was averted because of the courageous leadership of these two men who eventually received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly for their efforts. Racial war was avoided, but the roots of injustice remain deep in South African society. The task of reconciliation on all levels is ongoing.

Breakdown of Interaction

The universe is a finely-balanced system of interrelated beings which interact in an orderly fashion. To generate the energy for anything to exist, act, and reproduce, there must be complementary partners. One partner initiates the relationship and the other responds. The initiator is the subject partner and the respondent is the object partner. The most fundamental paired relationship is that between our mind and body. The mind is to be the subject partner and the body the object partner. The selfishness that is the root of conflict within the individual comes from a breakdown of interaction, as for example, when we let our physical desires take over the desires of our mind that seeks for truth, beauty, goodness, and true love.

Interpersonal conflict is also caused by a breakdown of interaction. Interaction flows most smoothly when people in the subject role guide those in the object role based not on their individual viewpoint but on shared values. Interaction breaks down when one partner takes over the role of another, when neither partner is willing to give first, or when neither partner will respond to the other.

Selfishness is the root cause of conflict. When we are overtaken by selfish desires, we tend to destroy ourselves and others. However, such selfishness is not our destiny, because it can be changed. No one is completely selfish, and no one is completely unselfish. We are a mixture of both natures. The balance between these contradictory tendencies may shift day by day. One part of us wants to do good, care for others, and give of ourselves. But at other times we find ourselves not caring about anything and doing whatever we please. Such inner conflict has plagued humankind throughout history.

It is interesting, however, that even though many people exhibit these characteristics, nobody likes to be considered selfish or evil. Selfish people often create the most elaborate excuses to justify their evil deeds and give the appearance of being good. This suggests that the unselfish side of us is more deeply rooted in our nature than the selfish side. We recognize that unselfishness is the norm to which we aspire.

A difficult challenge for children is sharing and taking turns. The conflicts that naturally arise offer opportunities for learning the principles of interaction, guided by parents and teachers. Jealousy among brothers can lead to horrible violence.

Playing games teaches children the rhythm of taking the initiative and responding to others. Participants have to watch carefully what the other players do, react appropriately, and follow the rules. Parents, teachers, and athletic coaches can help children learn the value of teamwork and taking guidance from people with more experience. Such lessons help prepare children for the challenges of adult life. Instances of ongoing conflict, such as between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and between the Arabs and the Jews in the Middle East, are like conflicts among brothers, the legacy of missed opportunities to unite.