Category Archives: conflict resolution

Understanding and Cooperation vs Rejection and Conflict

People are born different from one another. If you have several children, the odds are you recognize how very different we are when we arrive.  It’s human to think our own “difference” is best. That’s part of being different, we understand and value our strength more than those that seem the opposite. The reality is that for every strength there is a corresponding weakness. To survive most of us develop minimal skills in our weaker areas. It isn’t easy and if we can, we’ll avoid things that require us to use those skills.  Now, at eighty-five, I’ve realized that we are challenged sometime around the fourth quarter of our lives to develop in our weakest area. That requires a temporary loss of our greatest strength and most cherished ways of being, thinking, praying, and relating. It’s so scary that we may dig in and resist this part of the process of becoming whole.  It’s a dying to self and  it’s part of our spiritual journey.

If you have become aware of the growth and changes in the journey of Jesus, it helps to know that even he went through the challenges of changing his understanding of his mission and even’s God’s love.  And he too struggled with it. The times of his journey were compacted, but once you look for it, it’s plain to see and a powerful challenge for us.

Many of Scripture’s dominant characters, even brothers, were obviously different and some let that difference become the root of division and evil.

One of the biggest gaps in understanding, empathy, and appreciation for those different is between theory and possibility people and the world they see and know people.  That’s a major challenge in a democracy.

Another gap is between those that respond to life out of logic and those that respond from feeling values. Which is often a classic challenge in marriage.

The theory/logic people have a lot to offer, but their combination tends to exhibit a sense of superiority.  A political example was Adlai Stevenson who lost in his run for president. A classic comment about him was, “He looks at people like they are side dishes he didn’t order.”                                   

The theory people live with their noses in books of history and science and often see new ways of understanding them and making improvements.  The practical people can take those theories and make them happen. It should be a perfect pairing of gifts differing.

Except it’s like the tower of Babel, because they don’t speak the same language.

Theoretical thinkers never use a one syllable word when they know a five-syllable word for the same thing. To the practical people they may as well be speaking a foreign language.  This intimidates instead of communicating. It makes the “let’s just do it” people feel stupid and they shut down and turn off.

The reality is that EVERYONE is ignorant in a million more areas than they are knowledgeable.  Ignorance is not stupidity. And book knowledge will never become reality without the people who can make it happen. If we work at it, we can communicate across our different areas of knowledge.

My Architect husband was very visual and practical.  He wasn’t a wordsmith or a theory person.  He created many very good-looking practical buildings.  He spent time in offices asking the workers what would make their work easier and more efficient, in warehouses studying assembly lines, working with different denominations to design churches to suit their worship style.  He cared about getting the most legal parking spaces on the lots. He battled to get small Mennonite Schools without electricity safe enough to meet fire codes. He came home from Architectural Symposiums frustrated over the new buzz words.  When he wanted to get results from the American Institute of Architecture office, he got me to write the letters because I could speak their language. The “elite” Architects tend to design works of art and speak the jargon that goes with it. 

In Architecture, the blueprint communicates the details of the concept to the builder, carpenter, electrician, etc. But when my husband wanted me to appreciate the details of his blueprints, I got headaches.  So, I took a class in Blueprint Reading at the local vocational school. I made the best grades in class and did learn to interpret blueprints, but I couldn’t have made the leap to the actual site work. I’m a theory person who lives in my head and barely notices things around me.

When I began to study and then work with the MBTI, my husband appeared to be patiently listening to my long and enthusiastic monologues on personality types. But after several years, when we were asked to give presentations on type together, it turned out that he had been counting ceiling tiles, windows, and square feet while nodding thoughtfully during my expounding.

But, when we were challenged to get it together, we slogged our way through psychological jargon and their realities until he could express our differences with concrete examples. Since his personality type is much more predominant than mine, he was able to communicate effectively with many more people than I was.

Since he and I were the exact opposite to the extreme in every area that the MBTI measures, we made a good laboratory for understanding across the differences.  But it wasn’t easy. I think our five children who are very different from one another profited from our differences, but it took understanding the differences for us to recognize that the way we each expressed love was different, so we often weren’t getting the messages.

My degree is in Psychology  and I’ve accumulated enough credits in Pastoral Theology to qualify for a job that required a masters in that.  My interest from the combination has been on how differences in inborn personality traits effect marriages, teaching and learning style combinations, spirituality, and business management.

Now at eighty-five, I’ve begun to focus on the many ways personality (not intelligence) creates misunderstanding and alienation in politics. I’ve recognized how important it is now that we begin to see our differences as gifts that could be working together, not dividing us. 

This topic has become my theme song. The more I consider it, the more important it seems to be for our times.

Control or Love

John Roedel 

Me: Hey God. God: Hello, My love. Me: The world is completely out of control. God: I know. It’s such an adventure, right? Me: No! It’s like being on a runaway train! I need to feel like I am in control of my life. God: You want to be in control? Me: Yes! God: You are living on a spinning wet rock of a planet that resides next to a constantly exploding fireball in the middle of an ever-expanding universe that is filled with mysteries beyond your wildest imagination. Me: Um, okay…. God: And on this planet that you are hurtling through the great expanse in – you are coexisting with billions of other people who have free-will and their own experiences that shape their perspectives and beliefs. Me: Yeah…? God: And while all this is going on your soul is residing in a physical body that is such a miracle of delicate engineering that at any given moment could produce its last heartbeat. Me: Right… God: What is it about your existence that you think you have any control of? Me: Um… God: Come on – you know the answer to this. What can you control? Me: How kind I am to people? God: Yep and one other thing. Me: What’s that? God: How kind you are to yourself. Aside from that – most of everything else is a bit outside of your design. Me: That’s a bit terrifying… God: All great adventures are!


Eileen Norman

   Puts things in perspective, but doesn’t take away the call to learn how to love and to love effectively…..not safely from a distance, but up close and personal where we can’t ignore the nitty gritty that’s hard to love. Loving at a comfortable distance is pretending. Loving requires hearing and understanding others’ reality. It doesn’t change your own, it expands it.  

  More and more I realize how ignorant every single one of us is. And all put together from Einstein and the rest of us, there is more that we don’t know than our combined understanding about anything from the cosmos to our own mind and body. Nobody knows enough to feel superior. Our ignorance is to the millionth squared more than our knowledge and understanding!

I have learned more about loving from my grandchild with disabilities than anywhere else in my 85 years. And to me loving is the ultimate goal of life. And Jesus grew in understanding that took him from “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” To: “Love your enemy as I have loved you.”

“Pride goes before the fall.”    Sadly, it seems we are all having to learn that the hard way.


Not liking to clean house, I spend time sitting around puzzling about things in general.

Like what are the differences between righteous and self-righteous? I think being righteous is to the best of our ability trying to make loving choices. Being self-righteous is thinking our way of loving is the only way. But with people with different gifts and training, could the difference be like when a plane is having a problem and our practical response is to put the oxygen on our self first so we can help those closest to us or if our knowledge of aeronautics makes our first instinct be to start trying to save the plane? I see this as similar to our political differences. Neither is wrong…..we use what God gave each of us. But, we need to start working together. There are people who are practical and see the immediate problems right around them and have the natural gifts and training to fix them. But there are people who study history to learn from it or who study science to understand possibilities both helpful and destructive to prepare for them. The latter can’t fix our plumbing, but they can recognize potential universal problems and work to find solutions. We need both and we need them working together. It’s not either/or.

And we are all ignorant….whether about how to harvest or repair things or how to stop poisoning our oceans or our atmosphere. We need each others’ gifts. We need to value both our own and each others’. And to understand that ignorance is part of everyone’s life. Only God knows it all. Ignorance is not stupidity, unless we don’t admit it and don’t value those with knowledge we don’t have.

God designed us with different gifts so we would learn to work together for the good of all. Wake up! We need each other!

Our Tower of Babel

 I hear Einstein’s quote “…my faith is not compatible with science” as saying that his faith is not limited by current scientific knowledge. It seems to me, ignorant as I am, that there is more that humanity  (including scientists) doesn’t know than what we do know.
Isaac Asimov’s non-fiction books are some of my favorites. “Wellsprings of Life” was describing the evolution of the tiniest to the largest things in the universe and showing the correlation between them. It was so awesome, I literally danced with joy at the amazing intelligence behind and in all of it. His book The Human Body and The Human Brain showed how incredibly physically different we are from one another even within our level of evolution. It explains so much that could free us from our cookie cutter vision of humanity.
I do admit that I sometimes see the amazing survival adaptions of animals now looking more like evolution than what I see in humanity.
For me Jesus was a significant leap in evolution from “tribal” to “universal,” from “me first” to “everything is one,” and, from “scorn of those who do not understand” to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” I see intellectual scorn dividing us and setting those we judge’s ignorance in concrete. Those who see possibilities and those who live in the reality of the present moment are two sides of the human coin. And sadly, those who are limited to custom and what they can see physically outnumber those who explore the possible dream. If we cannot find a way to care enough to understand each other and free us all to grow wiser and more understanding, we are building a tower of Babel that will lead to the destruction of all. I love science, but it does not yet have all the answers and many of them are paradoxical. If the person with the high IQ (IQ tests do not measure all skills and knowledge necessary for survival) cannot communicate with the majority across the gap so that they can accept that ignorance is curable, even though it makes us feel and sometimes appear stupid, we are doomed. The whole may be greater than the sum of its parts, but the parts need to work together.

Contempt is the Hallmark of Hubris

Contempt is looking at people like they are side dishes we didn’t order. Our current division as Americans is going to undermine not only whomever wins the next election, but probably anyone winning many future elections. Trump just brought to light the depth of the fundamental differences in people. If we don’t find a way to actually communicate sanely across those, we are going to self-destruct as a nation. The basic differences are still the same as in our un-Civil War. I have found that many reasonable, kind, college educated family and friends who voted for Trump simply don’t believe what they hear and read opposing him. Even those that do, still are basically Republican. To me our conflicts are rooted in inborn personality differences. When I really tried to communicate with people I love across our differences, I began to understand why they think the way they do, I don’t necessarily agree, but I understand. Both liberals and conservatives, who don’t accept that we have to compromise to find a way to any shared acceptable vision of justice, are trapped in an illusion that their ideals are obtainable in a democracy of diverse people in close to equal numbers. Trump should be our wake-up call. And more than anything contempt simply shuts people’s minds and blocks any hope for compromise. I think all of us on both sides are filled with the hubris of contempt these days. Our conviction that we know the truth, all the truth, and nothing but the truth is actually claiming to be God. It is sheer hubris. This is an imperfect world with imperfect people, who only by facing that reality can together inch toward creating a better, though still imperfect, world.

Prejudice is Wrong, Even Prejudice FOR the Underdog

I have been writing about my experiences with prejudice in the last month. I have realized that because of being eight when WWII ended, I had seen news photos of the war at the movies and then photos and stories of the concentration camps, so I had a prejudice against Germans. Then when in the 1990’s, I traveled to areas speaking German in Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic in a wheel chair and experienced prejudice against the handicapped first hand, it triggered that prejudice of mine. There were several very hurtful experiences and I came home hurt and angry and with renewed dislike for Germans. In writing and reliving it, I finally realized that most of the people we encountered during those trips were kind and friendly. My prejudice was based on just a few very mean people. I think this is often the case. I personally am vehemently anti-Trump, but I know and love and respect people who are staunch Republicans that voted for him. I admit it’s difficult for me to understand, but I know these are kind and loving people. So, like Oscar the Grouch, I am praying and working on my attitude. Pre-judging based on a small vocal group within a group is simply wrong. There are both hateful and loving people in every group, whether it’s a political, national, ethnic, racial, gender, or even a religious group. Prejudice blinds us to the good in people. In these times it is particularly important to be able to hear one another and work together to preserve our shared country and world.
To do that, we have to overcome prejudices of every kind. Even prejudice FOR the underdog. As a prejudiced person, I know what a struggle that is. But with grace, like Jesus did with the Samaritan, the unclean woman, the lepers, and even the soldier of the cruel Roman conqueror, we can see through to our shared human vulnerability and need for love and grace. Let’s pray for grace and actually work at it. It’s important.

Love Those that Hate You? Seriously? Love Sinners More than Beliefs? Why?

It’s a conundrum:  Here are some controversial issues from the views of both conservatives and liberals.  How do we love the people we consider unloving because they fear floods of immigrants? How do we love people who want the freedom for women to kill a potential child even possibly as a convenience? How do we love people who want to deny medical treatment to the old and send the middle class into poverty from the cost of staying alive? How can we love people who we believe are going against nature and the bible? How can we love people who don’t see the danger in giant corporations owning those that govern us. How do we love someone that wants security for all, more than freedom from control by government.                                                                       In a democracy we have a voice and a vote. When it has become a voice of hate on both sides, how do we love? How do we heal so we can once again become Americans, not Democrats or Republicans, not Capitalists or Socialists, not conservative Christians or Liberal Christians, no matter who wins the vote? How do we love what we don’t try to understand on either side? What happens if we continue to grow in our hatred of one another? What will a country of growing violence, with or with out automatic rifles, be like for our children and grandchildren?                                                                                                    Who is willing to become a reasonable voice crying in the wilderness of antipathy, disgust, suspicion, distrust, self righteousness, fear, and hate? What good will winning do anyone if we dig our trenches at the extreme opposites, forcing moderates into the camps of extremists until we are hopelessly divided as much as enemies in wars?

No one is winning anymore. We have lost our way as a nation.

Bloggers, if  you agree please write a similar post on your site or re-blog this.  And ask others to do the same.  We who want moderation and kindness need to speak out.

Of Cabbages and Kings

OK, who has actual numbers, countries, conditions that precipitated such a sudden increase in immigrants? What is the current number,condition, and plan for immigrants in custody.
Who has an itemized list of symptoms of climate change beyond normal vacillations in weather over a couple of centuries? Anyone know of charts imaging the extent of changes?                            Who reads the Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post , The Atlantic, and watches PBS and Fox News?

The time has come the Walrus said, to speak of many things! But unless we have some facts that we can trust, we will be ruled by dictators or kings. And even if you like the first, there’s no guarantee you will like those who follow, and we will no longer have a choice.

Anger, antagonism, name calling, ridicule, do not convince anyone.  I’m open to facts with sources and numbers with names.  I’d like to hear from people who actually read and analyze sources on opposite sides.

I admit that I became an ostrich once politics turned into mud throwing.  I don’t know where to begin now, so am open to help.