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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crossing the Room

People leave good workplaces because they can’t reconcile their relationships. It’s just as common an issue in marriages that end in divorce. As far as East is to West, as Rudyard Kipling would put it, never the twain shall meet. But if one is prepared to cross the room, there may be fresh hope to settle conflict.

It’s even more common that we exist in conflict. That is, the conflict prevails; it never ultimately gets sorted out. We compromise on our integrity, and so do they. The result is a shallow level of intimacy which, in effect, means low trust and shaky levels of respect. Now a veiled trust and respect has become a foil with which we hide behind, pretending “all’s good,” when clearly it isn’t.

Crossing the room may, again, be our answer.


One person’s truth,

Is another’s pure fable,

Between them exists a sleuth,

To combine them we’re unable.

Until the two meet,

With ideas to redress,

The conflict cannot be beat,

Views are polarised—confess!

Then they come together,

Agendas off the table,

Dealing with stormy weather,

Ending only when it’s stable.

Taking turns in the other’s shoes,

Is bound to help assist,

Understanding will help defuse,

Enabling both to persist.

A listening ear, a caring heart,

Mind’s made aware,

A better place to start,

One with genuine care.

Now that it is started,

A better footing now,

Nobody’s to be outsmarted,

Grace we must allow.


We’ve all heard it said it takes two to tango. If one person involved in the conflict, however, can make the bold move to cross the floor, sacrificing their advantage, especially if it occurs early enough, the other person may likely respond in kind. This is particularly the case when the other person trusts the initiator’s integrity.

The Extravagant Latitude of Grace

The last line of the sixth stanza of the poem above is the eternal answer for building trust in the midst of continual, or even occasional, conflict.

When we are on an equal footing we are reticent to see things go backwards; maintaining the positive relationship is harder than we think. If we need to extend the latitude of grace, we also need to bear up for inevitable future conflict—all relationships endure conflict. The best relationships still have conflict; indeed, they are characterised by how well they ratify their issues.

Conflict presents us with the opportunity to deepen trust and, equally, the threat that trust will be damaged if we don’t handle the conflict well enough. Provided there is a semblance of valued truth in the relationship, it generally comes down to grace—being prepared to extend an olive branch... yes, again and again; as necessary.

Grace is the gift of God to those blessed, such that they might extend it to others. This is one of the most visible ways God’s name is glorified.

The extravagant latitude of grace is the miraculous missing link of conflict resolution. Can we cross the room? God thinks we can.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

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