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Virtues in Paradise: The power of unity

Saturday 17 February 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Virtues in Paradise


Virtues in Paradise: The power of unity

In small islands and towns, it’s tricky to work out solutions to conflict, writes Linda Kavelin-Popov.

Someone who has crossed a boundary or even created serious harm may be your uncle, your cousin, your neighbour, or a family member whose approval you need to build a house on family land. Relationships are complicated.There is much avoidance of conflict when one negative word can start a feud that could last for years. So, instead of resolving problems face to face, we resort to backbiting. We express our concerns, our fears, our sense that justice is being violated by talking to others, not the person involved. What that does is to foster disunity and distrust across the community. So, how can virtues help?

One of the five virtues strategies is to offer spiritual companioning. It’s a way of listening based on compassionate curiosity. You want to understand the other person’s point of view as much as you want to get across your own. This inner shift in attitude is simple but not easy. It’s especially hard to do when the common practice is to tell someone off in a growly manner. The truth is that you can’t put anything into a full cup. People need to empty their cups before they can receive any new insights about how to do things differently. So, to companion successfully and to have any chance of being heard requires a profound inner shift. Don’t get furious. Get curious. I believe that if more people practiced companioning, which allows each person to be fully heard, there would be a significant drop in court cases. There is no magic a Justice of the Peace or a Judge can offer. The responsibility for a sustainable solution always rests with the people involved.

I had a friend here in Paradise whose brother took her in to help her recover after surgery. She slept in a bed in the lounge. One morning the brother’s wife was cleaning the lounge and asked the sister-in-law to move to the couch or a chair so she could clean under the bed. The recovering patient became offended, packed up her things and went home. She never returned nor did she speak to the family again before she died. I don’t know the tone of voice the cleaner may have used, but still, what a needless loss of family unity, which is much more important than a bruised ego. If either one of them wanted to restore the relationship, they could have used companioning to do it.

The wife could have gone to her sister-in-law and asked, “What did it mean to you when I asked you to move to the couch? I see that it offended you.” That would have given the other woman a chance to empty her cup. She was feeling guilty about staying so long, and probably took the request to mean, “You’re always in the way. You’re so much trouble.” And there may have been no truth to her assumption at all.

The only way to clear up a misunderstanding is to bring it out in the open and explore it, calmly and with acceptance of each other’s feelings. It’s helpful to repeat what the other person has expressed to show you understand it, before clarifying your own perspective. Once a person feels understood, they are far more likely to be understanding. “Cleave unto that which draweth you together and uniteth you.” (Baha’i Writings) “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)