Throughout life, we find paradoxes – contradictions that demonstrate both sides of issues and deepen our understanding of the world around us in new, challenging ways (Burns, 2003, p. 186). Often, we think about the paradoxes of joy and suffering, happiness and unhappiness, love and hate, meaningfulness and meaninglessness, etc. We think about things that deal with emotionality and in perceived mutually exclusive terms. In leadership, we reflect on great warriors and great leaders versus poor or ineffective leaders and the battles lost (Burns, 2003, p. 186). In this, we think about things that deal with success and failure – a clear winner and loser are defined for us, and we make assessments and judgments on their capabilities through these. However, what may be most beneficial to our growth in relationships and leadership is understanding each other when there is non-violent conflict: the disagreements we may have need not necessarily be within the context of war or battle (Burns, 2003, p. 186). We must begin to ask ourselves more thought-provoking questions, considering whether opposition and conflict are integral to our growth, core values, morals, and motivations and how we can begin to shape a new understanding of these through relationships and disputes not centered on our desires to be ultimately right or successful above all else.
Regarding Psychology, research has indicated that conflict is best resolved and peace embraced in those who share similar emotional, cultural, and locational contact (Burlingame-Lee, 2004). The decisions for peace are made through examining social identities, the cost of vulnerability, and the kind of conflict being dealt with – whether novel or routine (Burlingame-Lee, 2004). It would seem rather apparent that those who have similar experiences and backgrounds would have an easier time reconciling than those who come from different backgrounds and experiences. Thus, we find a call to engage in more thoughtful, understanding, and cooperative conversations, seeking first to understand those around us, rather than to respond, dehumanize, depersonalize or belittle their experiences simply because they may be different than us in some small way or another (Burlingame-Lee, 2004). In all our experiences, we must become more mindful and aware of those around us, regardless of our differences. We do this to bring about reconciliation in more realistic, validating, and forgiving manners that elevate us and challenge us to see in new perspectives outside of good vs. bad, success vs. failure (Burlingame-Lee, 2004).
In my personal leadership, I realize it can be hard to build relationships outside of what we are used to and those who have similar backgrounds to us, even if we tell ourselves that it is something we regularly take part in. We like what is novel within other people, so long as this is comforting and nothing too jolting to our routines or values and beliefs. As difficult as it may be to bring myself into embracing others for who they are, especially when their background and experiences are very different than mine are, I realize that some of my greatest friendships and memories come from this. As I grow in wisdom and leadership capabilities, I want to become a better leader in developing more meaningful, sincere, and loving relationships that admire and appreciate what is novel in others, even when these shake up my complacency in the values, perceptions, views, and beliefs I may hold.
In the case of Walter McMillian, when confronted with new evidence that would exonerate him from death row, many in the court chose to ignore the facts that pointed to his innocence and the manipulation of the case by officers and prosecutors (Stevenson, 2015, p. 142-145). Vickie Pittman’s murder case was left unsolved for decades in what appeared to be a cover up for her threat to expose the injustice and coercion of the local authorities (Stevenson, 2015, 138-142). Trina Garnett was convicted of second-degree murder and given a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in an accidental fire that killed two boys (Stevenson, 2015, p. 147-151). In all of these cases, the character of these victims was left untouched out of someone’s inability to see others in a new, humanizing, and loving light that validated their experiences and the pain they endured. Many looked out for themselves in investigating the crimes and injustices committed, causing more harm than good to all parties. In our faith, we are called to be light, our brother’s keeper, and a safe haven for those who hurt. To negate the validity of someone else’s humanity is synonymous to condemning Christ. We are beckoned to loving those around us as we love ourselves and the God we serve. This love encompasses understanding others for who they truly are and admiring them for their differences and the various ways they challenge us and help us grow.
Burlingame-Lee, L. (2004). Forgiveness, emotion, and evolution in making peace. Peace And Conflict: Journal Of Peace Psychology, 10(2), 181-183. doi:10.1207/s15327949pac1002_8
Burns, J. M. (2003). Transforming leadership: A new pursuit of happiness (Vol. 213). Grove Press.
Stevenson, B. (2015). Just mercy: A story of justice and redemption. Spiegel & Grau.