Recently, I was consulting with a ministry leadership team. It was my third time with them. My job was to mediate a multi-year conflict that originated from a complex mission endeavor within their church. My job was to facilitate unity and peace and help get their mission back on track. The problem was, the interpersonal issues ran deep. The blessing was, the individuals loved God and were willing to sacrifice their own feelings in place of God’s heart. We departed with apologies, hugs, prayers for one another, and a new plan for future interaction.
During our meeting, I jotted down a note to remind myself to write an article on the culture of honor called, “Build Bridges, Not Walls.” It was the place I had taken this team when they talked about two other men who were vital to their project, but were negatively affected by the team conflicts. One of the men on the team said, “We all know these men have strong personalities and can be hard to relate to. But we all have weaknesses, too. But they both have incredible strengths. If we fail to embrace their strengths, we will miss the wisdom they have for our mission. We also need to embrace them as brothers and friends.”
At that, I chimed in: “Too often, what I deal with in conflict resolution is how quickly people write others off because of a disagreement or diversity. People, in the natural, will more quickly build walls than bridges.”
What is a wall?
- You rub me the wrong way, or offend me, so I close my heart to you, and avoid a close relationship with you—most often, without telling you that I am building a wall.
- I label you for who you are, right now, without considering what you could become.
- I avoid you because the way you think is different from the way that I think.
- I avoid you because the way you live is different from the way that I live.
- I build a barrier between you and me because I do not want to address the way that you treat me.
What is a Bridge?
- Behaviors in your life are caustic, tough, or wounding. Therefore, I accept the privilege of helping you grow, or finding out what motivates your behavior.
- I see you NOT for who you are right now, but for who you are becoming, or could become.
- I embrace you BECAUSE the way you think is different from the way that I think.
- I embrace you BECAUSE the way you live is different from the way that I live.
- I address (person-to-person) the way you treat me, with the goal of improving our relationship.
Most of the time, we erect walls out of our own insecurity or lack of identity. Perhaps, if we were not so insecure, we would perceive other’s abrasive characteristics or flaws as an opportunity to call them up to a higher place, or a place of greater wisdom and character.
That’s a bridge.
- Can you name people who have overlooked your faults and built a bridge into your heart?
- Do you remember losing a friend without ever knowing why—someone who, instead of building a bridge, erected a wall?
- Are there people in your life whom you have separated from by building a wall, without ever attempting to build a bridge?
- Are you married? Does your marriage relationship entail building walls or bridges?
Walls are easier to build than bridges. In building bridges, you need to be willing to risk rejection. You need to have the courage to confront. You need to have the character to listen to someone else’s heart. You have to deny pride and embrace humility. Yes, walls are easier to build than bridges—much, much easier—and that’s why in a tense relationship, most people default to building walls.
Sometimes walls are good.
Sometimes walls are necessary.
Sometimes walls are emotionally healthy.
But first, do all you can to build the bridge.