I once was sent to the negotiating table with a mandate to break an impasse between my organization and another and to heal the animosity between the two. A swift resolution was needed. This seemed like a daunting task, especially since I had been indirectly involved in creating the impasse.
As I went to the negotiating session, I considered something I'd read by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper: "Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 454). A loving motive and aim are key to finding the appropriately persuasive words required of a diplomat.
I needed to see my fellow men and women through the eyes of divine Love, or God. The Bible says that God is not just loving, but is Love itself (see I John 4:16). I prayed to better understand that there is no room for deceit or duplicity in infinite Love and that everyone is capable of expressing the pure love of Love.
I wanted to express that right motive that Mrs. Eddy wrote about. I needed to turn away from human personalities and from trying to get my way. I resolved to find the best solution, which I knew would have to be mutually beneficial and readily seen as such by all participants. What I desired most of all was to witness the Love that is God, which blesses everyone without exception and is expressed by all creation, including everyone at that negotiation.
The meeting began by the other organization offering a different but ultimately unworkable solution. Defenses went up on both sides. As I listened to the discussion, I also listened for the inspiration of Love to designate the next step.
Just as it seemed we had reached another impasse, I found myself inspired to say, "There is another way." All eyes turned in my direction and, to my amazement, I suggested we accept the other organization's original proposal - the one my colleagues and I had so utterly rejected.
Love was definitely leading the way, because, although it was clear to the two main negotiators that this proposal had already been rejected, both of them expressed the humility not to say so. After a moment of quiet reflection, they simply agreed to consider it. This started substantive discussion again, which ultimately led to a satisfactory resolution.
This incident, and others like it, have taught me important lessons in diplomacy: Put God first, see my colleagues as God's loved children, and seek solutions with the interest of the good of the whole. This approach brings satisfying answers, sometimes in unexpected ways.
I recently read a sermon by Henry Drummond, a 19th-century Scottish theologian, that included a passage that struck me as a wonderful truth about diplomacy: "Guilelessness is the grace for suspicious people. And the possession of it is the great secret of personal influence" ("The Greatest Thing in the World").
One definition of grace is "the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life" ("Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible"). At the negotiating table, then, grace is the active evidence of guilelessness, expressed through humility, harmony, and honest respect.
By the end of the negotiations, we came to an entirely different solution from the ones we had discussed in that session - a solution that everyone embraced without reservation. But our journey there began in that moment of guileless grace, the love of Love, which motivated honest communication.
As our families, communities, and nations engage in critical diplomatic negotiations in the coming weeks and months, we can pray to see more clearly that love, right motives, and grace have their origin in one universal Supreme Being, and that citizens, diplomats, and heads of state have the capacity to express these inherent qualities. We can each see evidence of universal Love in action.