The Anti-Antagonist: Conflict, narrow places and rebirth
By: Ann L. Begler
The Passover story, as many know, is a story of the Jewish people’s escape from the land of Egypt where they lived as slaves. The Passover story makes specific reference to Egypt as mitzrayim – a narrow and constricted place where the Jewish people were forced to live within a society that was focused on material things and that carried little consciousness of or respect for the vitality of life, itself. As the story goes on, the Jewish people were able to escape from their lives as slaves and enter a land where life held new promise.
As part of the Easter story, we are again taught a lesson about the possibility of redemption and deliverance. In fact, we are taught about the miracle of seeing that even one who has lost all life — that one who has died — can be renewed and can find life, again …
Whether we are in the midst of our own conflict, or we are someone who helps others to work out conflict, these stories, and the powerful and compatible lessons, they offer provide us with useful guidance.
While in the Passover story, mitzrayim, or the narrow and constricted place was a particular society, it is not a concept for only days gone by. In fact, as humans, we all have places within us that are narrow. These are the places where our self-judgment lives and where our judgments of others thrive. Our narrow places are the spots where our fixed beliefs rest. When we are in our narrow places, we don’t have the space to find a full view of ourselves, of others, or of our situation. Fortunately, just as the Jewish people were able, through faith, courage and action, to escape that narrow place, we also have that possibility in our daily lives.
When we are immersed in conflict, trapped and living only in a narrow place that shuts out the joy of life, and in many ways, life itself, the story of Easter reminds us, it is not a final end; it teaches us, as with the rebirth of Jesus in the Easter story, that even from the coldest, most remote place, a new life is possible. In the Easter story, we are guided not to lose faith that something new is possible. We leave the story holding the possibility of rebirth as part of our vision.
These are not always easy concepts to latch on to, or believe in when conflict is at its most intense. If we didn’t feel so trapped, our space might not seem to be so narrow. It’s my view that those of us who work professionally to help people manage, resolve and, even embrace the creativity of conflict, have much to offer if, within us, we understand and respect the Passover and Easter parables. Through our work we have the opportunity to help our clients understand narrow places, we can support people to be less constricted and harsh, and as conflict resolvers, we can contribute to a vision of relating, interacting and living in places that are wider, spacious and filled with the energy of rebirth.
Perhaps we might all take time during this season to consider the narrow places that have trapped us as individuals, or that might have influenced our perceptions and treatment of each other. In our own ways, let’s take time to affirm what we would like to escape, knowing leaving our narrow place can lead to a life that has more promise, that we reach a place of self-rebirth and relational re-birth among us.
The Anti-Antagonist is a personal opinion column by Ann L. Begler, founder and principal of the Begler Group, a Pittsburgh firm providing services in mediation, advanced facilitation, conflict coaching and organizational development. You can e-mail Ann via Ipso Facto.