Following the eight principles of peacemaking |

Following the eight principles of peacemaking

Rich Mayfield

Like just about every other refrigerator I’ve ever seen, ours is covered with photos, memorabilia and various reminders of important tasks to be done. Occasionally, the photos get replaced with newer ones and the memorabilia gets exchanged but the “to do” list only grows longer.

In any case, I recently noticed a new little magnet had been added to the ever changing collage that, I hope, becomes more permanent than its neighbors.

It is no bigger than a business card, but it carries a message that is extremely helpful to any of us going about our business. It is entitled “Principles for Peacemaking” and it offers eight brief suggestions for conducting our lives in a manner that might just make this world a little nicer place. Each time I go to the refrigerator, I find myself pondering a principle or two.

Yanking out the jug of milk, I notice Principle No. 1 and the advice to “Speak one at a time.” Such a sensible suggestion might be seen as anathema to participants on most of the roundtable riots that pass for discussion on CNN or FOX, but it may still work at the family dinner table or around the conference table at work.

Principle No. 2, makes itself known as I search for boysenberry jam and invites me to “Promote honest communication.” Such an invitation can, at times, be particularly difficult in a culture prone to hyperbole and histrionics but this gentle reminder to seek the truth could be ABSOLUTELY, INARGUABLY, UNCONDITIONALLY AND WITHOUT QUESTION (oops) a good guide.

With the butter comes Principle No. 3 that has us “Listening actively without judgment.” I know I can do this but I’m not so sure about my friends.

Principle No. 4 states: “Offer experience, not advice.” Scooping out the ice cream, I ponder the fact that having spent a good deal of my life in a profession where people actually do come to ask for advice, there is great wisdom here. Offering advice often leads to resentment and guilt rather than resolution. Shared experiences, on the other hand, tend to allow the participating parties an opening of understanding and the insight to see similar events through different eyes.

I shout into the fridge and at my wife, “Where’s that last piece of chocolate cream pie?” and then take note of Principle No. 5: “Invite silence when in doubt.” Up until now, I figured this peacemaking was a piece of cake. Once, after preaching what I thought to be a particularly thought-provoking sermon, a parishioner shook my hand at the door and said, “Just because you say it loud doesn’t make it true.”

As I pluck the lettuce from its corner of the vegetable bin, I notice Principle #6: “Share leadership and resources.” Several years ago, I enrolled in a class taught by a very popular professor whose singular expertise I was eager to reap. Imagine my disappointment when, upon arriving at the class, I found us all sitting in a circle rather than in the more traditional neat rows.

The disappointment grew when, instead of standing at a lectern and casting his pearls, the instructor simply took an empty seat in our circle. As he looked out at the three score of students seated in the round he said, “60 teachers are better than one.” I can’t tell you the name of the course but I’ve never forgotten that truth.

Another round of refrigerator reconnaissance brings me face to magnet with Principle No. 7: “Build consensus.” I suspect it is the process that matters here more than the end result.

Principle No. 8: “Maintain confidentiality.” Can there be a stronger bond in a relationship than trust? (What did happen to that piece of pie?)

Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. Visit his website at

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