One of the passions of my life is conflict prevention and resolution. I love the satisfying feeling that comes when I can talk with someone with whom I am having a disagreement, and come to a place of harmony and connection. Many times, this has been scary in the initial stages because the other person got defensive, and I wondered, “how is this ever going to be resolved.” Thanks to my skills that I developed through practicing Nonviolent Communication, I had many successful experiences in this arena.
But then there are the conflicts that I have had with people that just don’t seem to ever be resolved. Almost always, the cause is having a difference in values. If I value honesty, but I am constantly dealing with someone who tells untruths or withholds the truth, we can’t ever resolve that conflict..
I value the teachings of the Bible which I understand tells me through the example of Jesus that there could never be a place where God sends us where we are eternally tormented and separated from him. Thus, I have a value of trusting in a God of love who can figure out how we can all be reconciled to him. Yet if someone values a God who is willing to predestine people to hell and heaven, there is always going to be conflict between us because our view of God is so different.
One of the reasons I think I resonate with vegans so much is that they share many of my common values. My experience spending time with many atheists and agnostics who shared my value of treating animals with love and respect gave us a great deal of harmony. When I met Christian vegans who valued community when I was at the Creature Conference in London, I felt as if I was in heaven.
I know that just having shared values is not going to prevent conflict. However, when I was listing my values, I included things like a willingness to use tools like Nonviolent Communication.
I am in the process of writing down my values and determining which ones are non-negotiable. I am trying out an experiment to see if I can be a magnet for people who share my values and want to live in such a way that we can be so harmonious and connected to each other, to God, to animals, to plants, and finally to our neighbors and the whole world that we can then be a powerful example to others of what really works. We demonstrate a life that is truly fulfilling, and people will want to learn from us because they want the same thing we have.
The early Christians spread the teachings of Jesus in this way. They were so loving and full of light–people yearned to be in their presence. How many churches are like that? How many communities? How many organizations? How many families? I have yet to experience any group that exemplified the fullness of Christ’s teachings to the extent that I wholeheartedly wanted to join in.
People told me over and over, “there are no perfect churches or people.” I believe they wanted to encourage me so I would be willing to settle for less than what I valued. I understand that they wanted me to be content and not continue to search for an ideal that might never manifest. They saw the pain I experienced in my searching for a community where I could really fit.
I now realize that unless I identify my highest priorities of life–my values–and determine which ones are non-negotiable–I will never be happy. Perhaps I will not ever find one person who shares these values. However, I am committed to only have values which I believe that Jesus, Abba Father, and Holy Spirit share. So then I can feel connected with the divine community.
And where does that leave me with the people who I perceive are not sharing the values of the divine community. Does that leave me in the position of believing I am better than them because I have the “right” values? In the past, that has been my position, and I have felt tormented because of this stand.
In fact, I confess that I still don’t know how to relate to people who have different values, except to do my best to understand why they have come to the place they have come to in their values. Then I will pray for all of us that we will know without a doubt the values that God wants us to share. I will do my best to live in alignment with my values with God’s help, and confess to God and to friends when I fall short.
I will ask God to help me develop a deeper compassion than ever before. I will yearn with all my heart and soul and mind to love like God loves–to be like Jesus. Oh, this seems so impossible. Yet we are called to do even greater things than Jesus. To be perfect like our Father in heaven is perfect.
I have two choices. Throw out the hard passages in the Bible that call me to discern and then practice values that Jesus would have me value. Or just give it all up and be an agnostic.
I choose the former. I choose to be an apprentice of Jesus, and learn from him how to be a powerful healing presence in this world.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.