Stepping Toward: The Dance Step of Peacemaking by Samuel Mahaffy

Hi Friends, this is nice short reflection on how we overcome the divisions that kill. I am reposting it for all of you to reflect on.


 Stepping Toward: The Dance Step of Peacemaking

Samuel Mahaffy


The  greatest lesson I learned about peacemaking came from my personal experience in relationship.  It was a time many years ago when my partner and I were having some small struggles that loomed large for us at the time.

It took one session with a wise counselor to move us back into intimacy with each other.  Our one therapy session left us with this sage advice:  “When you find yourself distancing from someone you are in relationship with, ask yourself, ‘what can I do to get closer to this person?'”

It is a simple lesson that both my partner and I have taken into the peacemaking and facilitation work we each do.  The dance step of conflict, is the step-by-step movement away from each other that grows from fear and defensiveness.  We move away from each other to protect ourselves, to guard our positions and to maintain our agendas. 

It is at the critical point of distancing from each other that we can make this profound choice to ask instead, “What can I do to get closer to this person?”  The party that chooses to step toward instead of stepping away is taking the first critical step into the dance step of peacemaking.

In global relationships, it is common practice to isolate or shun those whose behaviors we do not like.  The presumption is that somehow, by pushing them outside the global community, their behavior may change.  In international relationships there is little evidence that the distancing steps of breaking off diplomatic relationships, recalling ambassadors, and imposing social and economic embargos ever serve to fundamentally change behaviors by repressive regimes.

In peacemaking and development work, it is a useful practice to inventory the relationships that we are avoiding.  Is this avoidance bringing any reconciliation or any healing to broken circumstances?  Is it perhaps our own fear and defensiveness that drives our distancing rather than any moral superiority?

The dance step of peacemaking is stepping toward.  It involves the risks of choosing to remain in a relationship even if we do not condone the actions of those we are in relationship with.  It is possible to stay in relationship, to continue dialogue and to thereby be a voice for positive change even in the darkest of circumstances.

The dialogue of distancing is a dialogue that points away from peacemaking instead of toward it.  It is a dialogue that slowly shuts itself down until only a monologue is left.  In personal and global relationships we can choose the dance step of peacemaking instead of the dance step of distancing.

Samuel Mahaffy, Ph.D., Facilitator and Consultant


About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
This entry was posted in Befriending, Building Peaceful Community, Love and Mutuality, Peace Loving Left, Reciprocity, Relationship Healing. Bookmark the permalink.

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