Watching Paint Dry ... Leadership & Peacemaking

From the World Paint Watching Photo Contest
Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of speaking to 48 rising juniors (all boys).  They were at my alma mater DeMatha Catholic High School* in Hyattsville, Maryland, for a three-day Leadership Institute.  I was across the country in my office in Seattle, appearing via Skype for an afternoon session (morning my time).  The wonders of technology!

Our topic was leadership from the perspective of peacemaking.  I was on the panel with MJ & Jerry Park, two lovely people who run Little Friends for Peace and if I'm not mistaken were named "Teachers of Peace" by Pax Christi USA a few years back.  So let's just say they know of what they speak.  I spoke from my own experience as a peacemaker, from some early inklings and attempts in high school to joining a religious community that is seeking peace together through justice.  I felt that the young men were very interested and connected to the topic, a bit more than I expected truth be told, especially given it was the post-lunch spot.  They had great questions!

One of the questions was something along the lines of how do you keep going when you are in a situation that seems hopeless.  Another question built on that one, what do you do when you are stuck in a tense situation with no apparent resolution in sight.  He didn't use this phrase but I think he was talking about engaging conflict when you are at an impasse, when you seem to have hit a brick wall, when the different opinions are so entrenched that you can't imagine how you'll ever get through.

To be honest, I don't remember exactly how the three of us answered the question.  Except that I know there were themes:  persistence, patience, listening, openness to change, relationship building.

I've been thinking about the question and realizing that when you follow the nonviolent path of peacemaking to engage impasse, it's a bit like watching paint dry.  From the outside, there are generally not major flash points or quick resolutions so it can look like nothing is happening.  From the inside, sometimes you have to let the paint dry before you can apply another coat.  Change happens gradually, slowly, often with repeated coats applied, sometimes in different shades or tones.  As a leader, the call is to be faithful to the process, to carefully and prayerful discern the next action, to act quickly when required, to be patient when you need to be, and to openly and honestly engage the whole process.

The leadership of LCWR met this morning in Rome with Vatican Officials and American Bishops.  It seems from the LCWR public statement and news story that the meeting was at the very least "another coat of paint," an open dialogue and opportunity for conversation.  I keep waiting for the media and general public to lose interest in this whole process ... it's going to take a lot of time and seem at many times like watching paint dry.

On the other hand, I find myself hoping that the media and public stay focused on the issue.  If nothing else, it seems to me our Sisters in Leadership are being faithful to their call to engage impasse through peacemaking for the sake of the Gospel.  And on their part, judging by the public statements about this meeting, it seems as if the Church leaders are engaging it as well.  Think of what a model this might be for a world that chooses quick and often violent paths to engage or ignore impasse, rather than the slow and sometimes messy path of nonviolence.  May everyone involved remain open to the Spirit that leads us to peace.

(*DeMatha is my alma mater, and yet DeMatha is an all boy's school.  I've explained how that happened before on the blog)

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