Francis Schaeffer said that: “Truth carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless.”
Confrontation is ugly. It is difficult and it can lead to violence and other terrible things. Nevertheless, if we seek truth it will carry with it confrontation, and thus it is inevitable if we deal with the past, to overcome the present, and build the future. It is an inevitable circumstance if we deal with people, as our views and opinions will collide. It is an inevitable circumstance if we want to progress as a society. Notwithstanding, Schaeffer points out truth demands loving confrontation – which is somewhat of a paradox. How can confrontation which is a hostile or argumentative situation between opposing parties at the same time be loving?
I would like to discuss and hopefully unravel this paradox while at the same time discuss how what Schaeffer points out can potentially be applied to Ethiopia, in regards to the ethnic tensions taking place.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine, and we spoke about some of the grievances Oromos feel in Ethiopia. She mentioned how her father remembers that he was not allowed to speak Oromifaa in school and or how marginalized he felt in a country that was his own. I know there are millions of stories like this. Not only from Oromos but potentially a lot of other Ethiopians from other ethnic backgrounds – including potentially Tigres as well.
It brought an idea; I’ve been trying to wrap my head around for some time, into some perspective. Everyone might have personal grievances towards Ethiopia’s history. Personal is the keyword. However, these personal grievances are now playing out in what is quickly looking like regional power struggles and communal violence. The sad part is, that you cannot pause time – deal with the past and then move forward and deal with issues as they are taking place now. Issues are as complex as they are personal, and then they are as historical as they are timely.
There is however one constant in a confrontation. Opposing groups (in Ethiopia – it is very complex but for simplicity’s sake let’s call them pro-ethnic and pro-Ethiopian) that are in a heated debate. That in itself is not a bad thing as truth carries in itself confrontation. However, what is happening on the ground is that people are turning their personal grievances into ways to influence and potentially hurt others. There is no place where this can be more easily observed than with Social Media. A lot of people have turned to attack people viciously and making loud noises to voice their opinions. This, in the long run, will only create more animosity and will not really help progress or debate which can build a better society.
I believe that most people that are involved in violence in streets of many cities and communes in Ethiopia or those involved in making a ruckus and or spreading bigotry care about their own future and that of their loved ones – their families and friends. I believe that every person has the potential for some level of decency.
And this is where the paradox meets its explanation. In the case of Ethiopia, I believe the debates are so heated because there is some personal emotion there. There is some sort of love that one is trying to protect and therefore comes out with fists clenched. I think it is imperative that if one is engaged in such a confrontation – one reaches out to understand and with a heart of reconciliation.
Here is a practical guide I borrow form the leading expert on leadership, John Maxwell, to share with all of you that I think will help us all in dealing with confrontation.
- Firstly we should not confront a person if you do not care about them. In confronting the person we do not care about – we will always treat them wrongly. In a practical sense in the context of the debates going on in Ethiopia, if we cannot relate or want to understand what the other person has personally experienced to come to his or her point of view, we should let the confrontation go because we will not be able to relate to that person.
- Secondly, we should understand that confrontation is unavoidable; it is difficult, and how we handle it determines our success. In practice: Disagreements happen between people. Even in marriages which are sacred and for people that are in love. So understand that the confrontation is unavoidable and that it is difficult. Handle with care. And understand how you handle the situation will determine your success with that person and point of view.
- Finally, to resolve the issue we need to engage the person as soon as possible; seek understanding and not necessarily agreement.
Abraham Lincoln said one-third of his time he is thinking about himself and two-thirds of the time he is thinking about the person he is discussing with; in practice: We really need to care about the person and point of view. I listened to my friend who spoke about her father and I could feel his pain through her. I could feel that she was hurting and that made me want to understand the situation better and made it more important for me to focus on her point of view than mine.
- In addition, we need to outline the issue and why it is important to us; we should encourage a response to have the other person included and feel ownership in the resolution.
In practice: Once we really reach out in loving confrontation, I think the other person will deduct that we are genuinely trying to reconcile our opposing views and will listen to our explanation more open heartedly. This in turn will allow the other person to also feel understood and feel ownership in the conclusion of the confrontation.
The first thing that sticks out when you read the above is that a thread on Twitter or leaving some comments on Facebook will not help you resolve a confrontation. This will have to take place face to face; and preferably and most likely will have to be with a person you care about. (Trust me I learned the hard-way) If you have to face off online – please try be civil. It’ll make the difference for others reading. Secondly, you have to be genuine about it. There’s a reason trolls are called trolls.
And finally, do not avoid loving confrontation – unless it’s with a troll online. I am talking about confrontation with a warm blooded human being. Really don’t. It helps shape understanding and empathy, of how others see and feel things. It helps shape healthy opinion, especially your own.
Ed.’s Note: Amanuel Grunder was born in Addis Ababa to a Swiss father and an Ethiopian mother. He has spent nine years working on youth employment, women empowerment and social accountability in Ethiopia. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]
Contributed by Amanuel Grunder