Many if not most of these arguments we manage to work through, with both "sides" recognizing that stress, misunderstandings, and personality clashes routinely take their toll on personal relationships.
But sometimes arguments can last longer, hurt more deeply, spread to include other people - and there seems to be no way out, no available means to make peace. We see this fracturing, these divisions, happen not only in our personal lives, but in our government, in "wars" between the President and Congress, "wars" between political opponents and parties, in wars among nations. Even though we know that Jesus has said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called God's children," often no one seems to know how to work for peace.
The first step for us as individuals to make peace is to connect with a beautiful Buddhist saying which I'm sure Jesus would agree with: "if you want peace, BE peace." (Thich Nhat Hanh.) In other words, "the only way we are going to be able to create peace in the world is if we first create (or better, find) peace in our hearts." (Fr. Richard Rohr.)
We create peace in our hearts "by deepening the practice of mindfulness (calm, prayerful inner awareness), both formally in regular meditation as well as throughout the day as we receive every person and every event that enters our lives; through such mindfulness we will, more and more, be able to understand...whomever we meet or whatever we feel, and so respond with compassion. Only with the peace that comes with such mindfulness will we be able to respond in a way that brings forth peace for the event or person we are dealing with." (Rohr.)
According to Ralph K. White (in his book "Nobody Wanted War: Misperception in Vietnam and Other Wars," Doubleday Press) , every "war" between individuals or groups or countries has six underlying precipitating causes; the parties in a conflict justify their "cause" for going to war by an appeal to six mutually hostile attitudes. Because these are mutually hostile attitudes, both sides view the "other" as the cause of the conflict. If however we are mindful of our own thoughts, emotions, and attitudes, it is easier not to be sabotaged into being a part of a conflict. These hostile attitudes are:
1.) Each "side" perceives the opponent in terms of the diabolical enemy-image. Neither "side" can see any good in the other "side"; everyone and everything is perceived in black and white terms.
2.) Each "side" has a "he-man, she-woman" self-image" that makes it believe it has the physical resources to "win."
3.) Both "sides" have a moral self-image which makes them view themselves as peace-loving, rational, orderly, and just: God has to be on "their side."
4.) Selective inattention focuses only on the extremes. Other details of the situation, or mitigating circumstances get glossed over and/or ignored.
5.) Both "sides" have a lack of empathy and are unable to see the situation from the other "side's" point of view. Bluntly, neither side cares to!
6.) Each "side" views itself as correct and justified, having the only rational interpretation of reality. Anyone on their "team" who disagrees in any way is considered disloyal.
Today if we calmly, prayerfully contemplate the world around us, we can recognize how these hostile attitudes can and do subtly infect relationships in families, as well as between men and women, people of different races, straights and gays, police officers and civilians, clerics and lay, workers and corporate management, rich, middle class, and poor. We can be peacemakers and help others avoid potential conflicts if we can help these various groups understand how easily they can be controlled by these six underlying attitudes, how easily they can be led to tension and warfare.
At his Last Supper, Jesus prayed that his followers would all be one. Each family, each group, each community, needs to be aware that each person has the dignity of being a child of God and brings valued gifts to the family/group/community. Those in positions of power and authority in each family/group/community have the responsibility to not put stumbling blocks in the way of each person having their basic needs and rights met and their gifts and virtues valued. Loving one another means reverencing each other as gifts from God.
Why should we just "sit there and pray and meditate" before wading into conflicts and being tempted to "take sides"? Fr. Richard Rohr says we should be mindful of our own thoughts, feelings, and attitudes first, "to remove one's ego from one's peacemaking, so that one's actions will not be coming from one's ego-needs but from the wisdom and compassion that constitute one's true nature." And what is one's true nature? If we are genuine peacemakers, we truly are children of God.
If you want peace, BE peace! And God will preserve you in perfect inner peace, love, and compassion even if others around you are at war.