Seeking and finding common ground

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

The world watches the war in Iraq wind down. Ships are returning to home ports. Some peacekeeping troops still stand ready, but other troops are heading home. While Iraqis attempt to restore and rebuild, peace-making is needed all over the world.

The turmoil left many areas mentally war-torn. The conflict brought war into friendships between individuals and nations, and it has instilled a silence after many words of conviction had been filling homes, marketplaces, cities, and nations. A war of hearts and minds instead of tanks and rifles. A war between opponents and supporters of the action taken in Iraq.

In this time of rebuilding trust, strength, peace, and honesty, and in rethinking what has happened over the past weeks and months, we can rebuild our friendships and relationships and join hands with supporters and opponents alike. We can piece together what has been broken. As millions worldwide, I have actively committed myself to one side of this war. I prayed from the bottom of my heart - prayers for truth and safety, for peace and clarity. Prayers that went in the same direction as the ones my friends shared from the other side of the mental front. I had heated debates and e-mails with phrases such as "I absolutely disagree with you." All this is now being followed by a strange silence. "This is the continuing of war," I thought a few days ago.

To the rescue came the motto of this newspaper, so beautifully moving beyond opinions and aiming for something higher and better. The motto, chosen by Mary Baker Eddy, the paper's founder, is "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind."

I pondered the motto, and I saw something powerfully new. It is a motto for thinkers, and it invites us to purify motives and to aim for healing.

I thought that all of us who have been actively involved in some way have something significant in common, namely, the motive to bless humanity. And I saw that behind a strong conviction is very likely to live a good heart, which tries to bless and help humanity, though perhaps with different means and methods. Yes, I can acknowledge the goodness in all of us, I thought, and I can acknowledge that God, good, is governing us all.

One time a friendship I greatly value had come to the point of absolute silence. We'd had difficult moments. My friend had a complicated personal crisis, and a few years later it was my turn to be "the troublemaker." I was difficult to be with, and she must have felt exploited by my chaotic thoughts and actions as much as I felt unable to communicate with her. The silence between us went on for a few years.

And then it happened. It felt so odd to have lost her from my then rebuilt life. I watched for ways to restore the friendship. And I felt it was time to find common ground. Moving beyond words to motives and beyond actions to thoughts, we finally found our friendship again.

I didn't physically throw myself in front of her, but mentally I did. Love travels a long way, and it doesn't hurt to wrestle for a good friendship, to do anything to reconcile. "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men," Paul counseled the early Christians in Rome (Rom. 12:18), and he certainly didn't imply always to agree with one another, but to love one another - a huge difference. I feel that we are invited to do this: To act according to our highest sense of right - and at the same time to understand that even the holiest conviction isn't worth one tear or harsh word with anyone on this planet.

I found a gift to symbolize our friendship, and with it a bridge to my friend, which she gladly welcomed. This symbol started a new, strong friendship, having its roots in goodness and in a modest understanding of the impartial government of God, Love, acknowledged by both of us as the leading force in our lives.

Seeking and finding common ground is no small matter, and it may be unpleasant to swallow pride and solid convictions to join hands. But it pays. In the end we all know what really matters. The "lone ranger" is not the symbol of true peace - but "loving the brotherhood" (see I Pet. 2:17) is.

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