Tag Archives: Conflict Resolution

Depraved Humanity Loves to Judge Depraved Humanity: A Word to be Shared

Last weekend I struggled through one of those long, sleepless nights. I tossed and turned, thoughts bouncing and racing here and there until I finally got up in the wee hours of the morning to use the little restroom that connects onto the bedroom that my husband and I share.

Arms outstretched to feel my way toward the open doorway as my feet felt about carefully in the darkness, I suddenly took three quick, bounding steps and shot out an open palm to flip on the lightbulb in our bathroom. My trip thus far had been a success, for I hadn’t stepped on a scorpion. In and around our house they seem to come out, especially at night, and have oftentimes been found in the middle of my nightly path, in our bed with us, or inside the roll of toilet paper. Every time I get up in the middle of the night my blind feet wonder if they’ll accidentally find one.

As I flicked on that simple exposed bulb, suddenly shedding an extreme amount of light on tired eyes, something else flicked on inside of me: judgment. In a tiny corner of our sleeping cinderblock house in the foothills of some forgotten mountains in a country very few people desire to live in, my thoughts took a direct, unexpected turn toward a certain situation my husband and I were witnessing from afar, and I began to judge the situation – or rather the people involved.

As if on autopilot, I began engaging internally in the act of casting judgment, and I felt justified (as all judges do) in my opinion. It was clear to me that so-and-so had done wrong, and I began playing that delightful (dangerous) little game of judgment as I ruminated on the very few details I actually had about the situation. Couldn’t sleep; didn’t have the mental energy to get up and begin working on the computer or read the Bible. But judge? Oh, sure. At any hour.

The one-sided court case in my mind jumped to the ‘guilty’ verdict after a split-second-long hearing when something suddenly pierced me.

They were words that came out of nowhere, that shot right through the chaos of the courtroom and silenced me and all the other lawyers who backed me up. The din of judgment calmed, disappeared entirely in an instant.

Get off My throne.

I suddenly felt naked in that courtroom, ashamed. I had assumed the throne that wasn’t mine. I had dared to pass judgment on those who are the same as I. Depraved humanity loves to judge depraved humanity – one liar scoffing at another’s lies, one big ego pointing an accusatory finger at another’s bold egotism.

I understood and repented, still surprised by how clearly that word had reached me. My shame and shock were immediately replaced by joy and thankfulness, for He who is on the throne is a perfect, just judge, abounding in mercy and quick to forgive all who seek Him humbly. Scripture even tells us that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, acting as a lawyer on our behalf! And not a lawyer seeking to condemn but rather to redeem, to liberate. Thank you, Father, that You are the judge. The only trustworthy judge in the whole universe.

Feeling humbled in God’s presence and assured in His love, I quickly glanced at the short path to my destination, checking one last time for scorpions. I then turned off the bathroom light and returned bounding tip-toe-style to our small double-sized bed and crawled up and under our blanket, still in awe of what had just happened.

As I curled up in a small ball, an old pillow wedged between my knees in the pitch black room, I thought it a very special occasion that God would speak to me so clearly and so piercingly. I felt I was to share that bare revelation with others and began wondering how. Was I to plan next week’s Bible study around the theme of not judging others, for when we do so we falsely assume God’s throne as if we were the judge, denying Him?

My thoughts ruminated on this one question of how and when to share the word I received, for I felt He had spoken it to me not only for my own instruction but also for that of others. The wee morning hours dragged on as I searched in my heart what to do. Surely this throne-robbing is a habit that runs rampant among the human race, causing division, accusations and inflated egotism where Father God intends sacrificial love to reign. This word must be shared.

The following day my husband Darwin took our 10 kids (yes, the newcomer Genesis from the other side of the country arrived safe and sound and Sandra is still with us, transforming our 8 live-ins into 10) to the nearby city of La Ceiba for a day of music lessons, paint class, a trip to the beach and a day of errands and fun as I stayed at home planning the upcoming week, reading page after page of our local students’ journal collections and generally getting waist-deep in administrative tasks that simply can’t be done when our kids are at home with us. Several times I considered in my heart what to do with the word God had spoken to me earlier that morning, but I sensed I should wait. He would show me when the time comes.

And, sure enough, when our old pickup rolled through our gate with several little (but actually rather big) people hanging off the back with bright neon backpacks and big wind-blown hair, I went out to greet our increasingly large family that I had not seen for several hours that day. The boys greeted me warmly along with our younger girls, but several of our teen girls (yes; we have many!) seemed put-off. I wondered what had happened.

Moments later, as everyone began filtering into our beloved little home with its large front porch, I found one of our girls in the bathroom close to tears. Another one seemed to be eyeing the sad one from a safe distance. Then, out of nowhere, a clan of three powerful young women came marching toward me and asked to talk in private. I could already sense where this was going, for we have been in (and successfully resolved) situations like these more times than I could count.

It had been a long, productive day and I was on the brink of sending everyone to bed for our family’s Sabbath Hour so that we could all get a little bit of rest after an incredibly demanding week (as they all seem to be), so I hesitated for an instant before finally agreeing to invite them into our bedroom to sit cross-legged on the tile floor with me and get to the root of whatever was happening. Better to get it all out and resolve the problem now rather that let it fester until tomorrow.

Our three girls sat down huffing and puffing, fire just about spewing from their ears as they began openly and rather aggressively sharing with me their complaints regarding their other sisters. There had been team-forming, back-stabbing, hurt feelings and the like. The balance of powers (and friendships) had gone quite off-kilter with the sudden arrivals of 16-year-old Sandra and 15-year-old Genesis, and now it seemed like each one was wondering where they fit on the totem pole and who their closest ally was.

I thanked them for trusting me enough to share all their hurt with me, and then I told them that I would be inviting our other big girls in the room to join us – those whom these three had marked as ‘perpetrators’ – for we have a rule in our house that if someone has a problem or misunderstanding with someone else, everyone involved must be present to resolve the situation together to avoid any back-stabbing, gossiping or further misunderstandings. This also facilitates the forgiveness process and allows for everyone to pray together for peace and for God’s love to abound among us. (This is a weekly and sometimes daily process in our household – facilitating healthy confrontations among irate siblings, sometimes taking up to an hour or two to listen patiently to both parties and then, once everyone is calm, seek together a God-honoring solution. These many, many episodes of conflict resolution have been a secret, powerful ingredient that has enabled us to experience ongoing, deeply rooted joy and love in Christ in a highly mixed household whose inhabitants come from dysfunctional, abusive families.)

So there they sat, all five closed off and ready to attack. Several cried. Each one took their turn to share their point of view. Without fail, each and every one said essentially the same thing, although they themselves were blind to that fact: I felt rejected by you, so then I began rejecting you. I saw you hanging out with so-and-so, and I misinterpreted your actions to mean that you no longer loved me, so then I closed my heart off to you and began rejecting you as I perceived that you had rejected me.

Nearly an hour passed as everyone began winding down. Each person had taken their turn – many turns – and they had said all they had to say. They still had a little bit of fight left in them but their strength was largely fading due to the intense emotional sharing. Everyone had talked; everyone had listened. This is almost always my cue to begin talking (once they’ve finished), so I looked around our tight-knit circle with a soft smile on my face as I saw tired, but open faces. It was getting late, and the rest of our household was already quietly tucked into their bedrooms as my husband waited patiently on the couch in our living room. He didn’t dare enter the female battlefield of roller-coaster emotions, jealousy and teenage insecurity, and I didn’t blame him.

I could read our girls’ faces. They knew that they had nothing else to share — they had already told me that — so they thought, shrugging their tired shoulder,  ‘Why not take a few minutes at the end of the battle to listen to Mom? At least we know she has good intentions and wants to help – after all, we sought her out – and we know that she doesn’t take sides, even if each team is actively recruiting her.’

And, as if in an instant of revelation, I suddenly knew exactly what to share. My experience with God the night prior in the bathroom. Were not our girls blinded by their own judgment, just as I had been? Were they not each grabbing at God’s throne, desperate to assume to role of ‘Judge’ so they could stamp a ‘guilty’ verdict on each of their sisters, when they had all participated in the same gossiping, the same emotional warfare? How can one judge the other when they all do the same things? Yes; this was the moment God had chosen to share this word.

And so I did. Carefully, and with great detail and focus. Our girls seemed captivated and intrigued, for it seemed as though I had changed the subject entirely. After all, I was talking about my own struggle with judgment (for they had yet to understand that it was also their struggle). What does Mom’s late-night trip to the bathroom have to do with me?

This apparent change in focus disarmed them completely as they allowed themselves to be wrapped up in the moment. My voice soft and filled with overflowing excitement, I told them, “All day I’ve been wondering how to share this word and with whom, and now I understand that God intends this word for you. In the midst of my judgment last night – swept up just as you are now, casting judgment on others without even having all the information necessary to make a fair verdict – God’s voice pierced my spirit:

…Get off My throne.”

A silent gasp engulfed the entire room as I believe that same word that snatched me from my own inner courtroom the night before likewise liberated our girls in an instant. For the first time in perhaps the whole day – in the midst of emotional warfare, hurt feelings, judgment and back-stabbing – each one suddenly understood exactly what had been at play. They had each assumed the throne that was never theirs to assume: they had observed a negative glance or the unavailability of their sisters and quickly passed judgment, stamped a guilty verdict, assumed the all-powerful position of ‘Judge.’

I continued. “Even the best of lawyers and judges – having conducted very thorough investigations – will never have all the details. Did you know that many people are sentenced to prison each year without having committed the crime they were accused of? There have been studies that have shown that some people have wasted away – years of their life gone forever – in a jail cell, but the lawyers and judges were wrong. Or biased. Or they simply didn’t have all the information. There is only one Judge, and He’s perfect. We can trust Him, and the throne is His. It will never be ours –“

13-year-old Jackeline, who had been extremely heated and put-off only moments prior, added, eyes wide and sincere: “…We must get off His throne…”

With that new revelation alive among us, quickly the girls one after another began asking forgiveness and we prayed together before everyone finally went off to bed with a lightness, a joy that was far from them earlier that day. I smiled and thanked God in my heart.

Since then our 12-year-old daughter Josselyn shared with me in the ensuing days that God stopped her in her tracks as she began judging in her heart. She came up to me with wide eyes and her unkempt black hair one afternoon: “God just spoke to me! I had begun judging someone in my heart, and suddenly I heard, ‘Get off My throne.’”

13-year-old Jackeline shared with me several days later that during a visit with her biological family members, the adults present began a rather aggressive disagreement, each one casting judgment on the other, and she spoke up boldly, “Get off of God’s throne! Each of you is judging the other, but God is the only true judge!” Her family members, who are not Christians, just looked at her oddly, but they did calm down.

I thank God once more for this word He shared with me, and I hope it helps you in your daily life. There is only one Judge, and He is trustworthy! The throne is occupied!

Amen! Glory to God!

Learning to be Effective Communicators: Lights, Cameras, Action!

Yesterday in our 7th-grade classroom I gave a workshop on body language, active listening skills, and conflict mediation. What started off as many points jotted down and enthusiastically explained on the whiteboard quickly turned into a riotous time of skits, partner work, and dynamic learning as we explored new territory on how to be more effective (and compassionate) communicators.

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Stanley and Rolan, local students in our discipleship-based high school program, practicing active/respectful listening in a dynamic role-play

 

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We touched on the fact that body language, tone of voice and facial expression constitute the large majority of communication (whereas the actual words spoken account for a small percentage of the overall message conveyed) in addition to explaining the difference between an active and passive listener, open as opposed to closed body language, the importance of allowing the other person to speak first, how to diffuse a potentially explosive situation, conflict mediation, etc. Miss Ligia and Miss Isis, our secondary and primary teachers, even participated in the workshop in order to learn more about a topic very few Honduran schools ever touch on.

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Miss Isis in a silly skit with Sindy, one of our local students. Both were extremely shy and hesitant to come up to the front at the beginning of the class, but soon enough they were participating with great joy!

 

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In Honduras where the majority of people – even educated adults – don’t employ basic active listening skills and many people struggle to maintain eye contact in a conversation or group setting, the workshop proved to be not only fun but also extremely important in our students’ development as equipped instruments in God’s hands.

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15-year-old Sandra and 14-year-old Elalf demonstrating active listening skills in a skit

 

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The students practicing active listening skills in pairs

 

Many youth and adults in this country suffer from a very deep sense of what they call ‘shame’, limiting them in their self-expression and initiative, and completely incapacitating them in the more difficult arenas of public speaking and conflict mediation. Many of our students have been very reluctant to read out loud, pray in front of others, voice an opinion, or have to stand in front of their peers and give any kind of presentation, so our dynamic activity yesterday – standing up to read the different points elaborated on the whiteboard, going to the front of the classroom with a partner to act out different silly skits, etc – constituted a huge step for all of our students in being able to freely and lovingly express themselves without wilting under that dark cloud of constant shame.

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Messy, an extremely shy local student who has slowly begun expressing more joy as she learns to participate without fear.

 

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At the beginning of our time together everyone – even the teachers! – were nervous about having to ‘put themselves out there’ in a potentially embarrassing skit, but as our time progressed everyone – even the shyest students who typically fade too easily into the background – were laughing hysterically, participating in numerous skits, trying on the different wigs and hats I had brought with me, etc.

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Cristian and Rolan, both local students in our 7th grade program, participating in a rather silly conflict resolution. (Great wig, Rolan!)

 

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As we have witnessed (especially in these last few months), many people in this nation problem-solve by way of violence. You said something I didn’t like, so I’ll go and kill you. You look like someone who belongs to the gang I’m against, so I’m gonna kidnap you. You stole from me, so I’ll shoot you. Learning alongside our students yesterday how to problem-solve by way of loving confrontation, humble listening, and asking/granting forgiveness rather than by resorting to violence may save lives long-term. What a privilege to be involved in this process!

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Dayana, our eldest daughter whom we are in the process of legally adopting, in an intense role-play with Miss Ligia, our secondary teacher, as they sought to resolve a heated dispute peacefully.

 

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We wrote across the whiteboard in large letters, each person taking their turn to stand up and read aloud: “…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” — James 1:19

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Elalf and I entering a dramatic skit about conflict resolution. (To make the class even more interesting, I dressed up in a high school uniform over my normal clothes and added a fun hat and purse!)

 

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He had stolen my slipper, after all!

 

The lighting in several of the photos came out poorly, but I hope you enjoy them and the riotous joy they contain! Praise God for this huge step of teaching young Hondurans how to be more effective, loving communicators for God’s glory!

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There’s a lot of information to copy down in your notebook! Try to keep up!

 

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Gotta love this photo of Miss Ligia on her way to the bathroom!

 

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Amen! Glory to God!