if I already know . . .

Posted on March 18, 2012


After our meeting for worship (which is always in silence) today we had a program on conflict resolution. Actually, as Quakers, every gathering is a meeting for worship. Each week the worship is silent but not so much meditation but rather it is listening to the silence and waiting on the Spirit. In a meeting for worship, someone may speak out what has been put on their heart after the silence has deepened and penetrated our souls. They are not speaking a prepared message but rather a message that comes out of the silence, out of the sustained listening and the discipline of waiting on God. These “vocal ministries” are very powerful because they have been laid on the heart of a Friend as a ministry to the rest of the group; and the person uses great discernment before speaking out; a very interesting practice in today’s society… counter-intuitive… counter-cultural… transforming our minds and our hearts.

The meeting facilitator, Walt, introduced the the focus of the meeting as conflict resolution although he qualified it as more like conflict reconciliation, which feels more human and less clinical. He gave us a metaphor that was very powerful to help us understand the process of holding a meeting for worship with a focus on “conflict resolution”, or, as is our practice every month, a meeting for worship with a focus on “business”, or any other meeting. The same process is used. It has become evident to me that silence is really a powerful force in peace and worship and transforming our relationships with each other and God .

Here is the metaphor: Picture a still pond with the surface like glass. This is the meeting engulfed in silence. As a person speaks, the silence is gently disrupted as if a pebble is thrown into the pond. The group then holds the silence as the ripples circle outward and then settle; and as the pebble sinks to the bottom. Another pebble is not thrown until things are settled again. This process honors each person’s voice and is in itself a proactive group process that mediates differences with peace. Rather than reactively responding to differences of opinion, we sit with them, seeking to understand rather than just to be understood.

The practice of silence, for some reason, disarms the ego allowing us to turn our focus outward to the other.

May I practice moment by moment, to

listen, more than be heard

understand, more than to be understood

console, more than be consoled

love, more than be loved

At one point, vocal ministry was given to me to speak out:

Conflict almost always begins by the presumption that I am right and you are wrong; which is almost always wrong in itself! I have learned to say to myself many times a day this:

If I already know . . . I can no longer learn.

I find I must teach myself a new belief if I am to break that automatice assumption that I already know. So I keep on telling myself this truth:

If I already know . . . I can no longer learn.

By shifting our myopic, self-centered paradigm that we know better and more than others, we then open up ourselves to learning. Moment by moment our teachers are showing us new things, new perspectives, new truths. But if we already know . . . we miss it! Who are our teachers? LIFE! Each person that enters our lives including our children, people with disabilities, the homeless person on the corner; as well as each situation in our lives including conflicts, inconveniences, differences…

We are blessed with teachers galore, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart that is open to learn.