About Us

Victoria Pynchon

As the co-founder of She Negotiates Consulting and Training, I offer my services as a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant....

She Mediates

ADR Services, Inc.

She Negotiates

She Negotiates

The 33 cent wage and income gap is unacceptable and unnecessary. So is the cliché glass ceiling. Bottom line, our...

Christmas and Conflict ~ a Meditation

It's Christmas Eve and I am moved to talk about religion and violence, particularly since the New York Times' most prominent Christmas story is about furious family battles over the pressing question of white lights or colored on the Christmas tree.

My conflict resolver's stream of consciousness moves from family strife to violence for reasons both global and personal.  Like many conflict resolvers, I am a wounded healer, raised in a family where violence alternated in alarming rapidity with the denial and suppression of conflict.  This created in the children of that family a desire for peace coupled with a suspicious nature prone to strike before asking questions.

It is we ~ those raised in the cauldron of violence ~ who seek peace and proclaim it while at the same time attempting to corral a pugnacious first response to threat.

That's the personal. I mention it not simply because I lack a religious confessor to urge me toward true acts of contrition, but also because the personal is inextricably interlinked with the political, particularly when it comes to religion. 

Religious Peace and Violence

How and why do we translate our personal weakness for the cutting remark or barroom brawl into religious and political dogma?  The "how" is often simply reflexive.  The author of The Brain Rules tells us that these are the questions we ask when we see a stranger.

Can I eat it?

Will it eat me?

Can I mate with it?

Will it mate with me?

The "how" is also the "why" with the added apprehension that religious beliefs are based on faith and too often require the faithful to convert the unconverted by means intellectually persuasive or violently coercive.  

Thus the human condition.

The Peace Part

Someone schooled in Buddhism once told me that "the world being dual, the best we can do is lean toward the light."

Many people schooled in Christianity have told me in and out of religious congregations that the profound fallibility that burdens all of us is precisely what makes us human.  It is only our willingness to accept forgiveness that takes us into the neighborhood of God.  Incapable of perfection, we are saved by grace. Once saved, we are moved to express that which God has expressed in us and we become agents of forgiveness and reconciliation.  We will never, however, stop "sinning."  The grace given is compassion for our fallibility, not the perfection of our "fallen" nature.

My Jewish friends refer me to Tikkun Olam - the principle of the world as both spiritually and materially broken ~ and in need of repair.  They also tell me about the 36 righteous people whose role in life is to justify the purpose of humankind in the eyes of God.

My evolutionist friends tell me that we share with the forebears from whom we separated fifty million years ago a compelling emotional response to injustice.  We also share with these distant relatives the same cognitive biases that make us respond irrationally to giving and getting.  TED video on this topic below.  


My Muslim friends acknowledge the violence in their sacred text which is not significantly different from that in the sacred Jewish and Christian tomes.  These teachings, all in the Abrahamic tradition, can be read leaning toward the light or toward the darkness.  Muslim organizations for peace are prevalent and powerful.

As a nearly fully secularized humanist raised with the values of mainstream mid-twentieth century Protestantism and dipped in evangelical Christianity in high school, I commit my spirit to the grace of a god I am too limited to understand, too skeptical to believe in without great struggle, and too grateful for the gift-horse of pardon to kick in the teeth.

A list of my favorite books on religion and/or violence/peace are my Christmas present to my readers.

The Ambivalence of the Sacred by Scott Appleby, a great use for the Amazon gift cards you're getting for your Kindle this holiday season.

Conflict Revolution ~ Mediating Evil, War, Injustice and Terrorism by Ken Cloke.

Bargaining with the Devil ~ When to Negotiate, When to Fight by Robert Mnookin.

Comments (6)

Read through and enter the discussion by using the form at the end
Tammy Cravit - December 24, 2010 10:51 AM

Thank you for a very thought-provoking post, and some great book recommendations, Vickie! I've added some new items to my "Kindle-To Buy" wish list this morning. :-)

Are you familiar with the Public Conversations Project? Their We site says that their goal is go "guide, train, and inspire individuals, organizations, and communities to constructively address conflicts relating to values and worldviews." Their Web site is , if you're interested - I think you might find it worth a look.

Have a blessed holiday and a joyous new year!

Tammy Cravit - December 24, 2010 10:52 AM

Gah, looks like my comment lost the URL for the Public Conversations Project. Let's try this again - it's www.publicconversations.org. You can also find it via Google if the URL gets mangled again.

Michael Webster - December 24, 2010 11:37 AM

I read the book, and what the author fails to state or notice is that most men, big or small, size up a stranger by wondering if they could take him in a fight.

On different level, your readers mights be interested in a review of Bob Mnookin's books:


Merry Christmas to you and your family. (Like the new css.)

Victoria Pynchon - December 24, 2010 12:04 PM

Michael! Nice to hear from you again - I think "eat it/eat me" is "whether I can take him in a fight." Wonder what most women's first thought is? Will she steal my man? (talking cave women here, not today's woman in her totally enlightened state ~ today's woman ~ "will she steal my lover")

Tammy ~ very familiar with the Public Conversations Project ~ the So Cal Mediation Ass'n of which I'm a member gave it an award several years ago and I go to it often for advice.

Jan Schau - December 24, 2010 6:22 PM

Having been raised in a Jewish home, I think "Tikkun Olam" is not the mantra that leads us out of conflict, but rather the principal of "Shalom" (peace). We are duty bound to work for peace, to create "Shalom Ba Bayit" (Peace in the home) and Shalom b'Eretz Yisrael (Peace in the Land of Israel). Also, there is the concept that we pray for G-d to give us peace "in our hands"--indicating that we, as humans, have that power. The Divine can only give us the power and the rest is in our hands. There's my rant this Christmas eve. That and gratitude blessings. Tikkun Olam is important but relates to our obligation to heal the world--not of conflict but of human suffering however it is caused.

Victoria Pynchon - December 27, 2010 7:24 AM

Thanks for dropping by Jan! Excellent observation and one I should have thought to include. I was focused on the broken world, I think, more than peace, having written this in a moment of brokenness and thinking about the conflict of litigation with which we mediators are so familiar as in need of healing before we can get to the question of peace. It continues to surprise me that we manage to help people resolve litigation in as few as three hours (note for readers: that's the maximum free time mediators give to our local State court) A friend recently told me that she and I had different "missions." "Really?" "Mine's peace," she said and before I could protest that mine was too, she added "and yours is justice." When I'm in a self-justifying mood, I often say "peace without justice is tyranny" and it's true that I am always struggling with the primary academic criticism of mediation - that we give up justice for harmony. Thanks for helping me think on this topic again ~ one that remains the hard nut I'm always cracking.

Post a comment

Fill out this form to add a comment to the discussion
I'd like to leave a comment. is
  • 4media dvd ripper standard 5
  • adobe audition cs5.5 mac
  • adobe creative suite 4 web premium mac
  • autodesk building design suite ultimate 2012
  • techsmith camtasia studio 7
  • adobe flash builder 4.7 premium
  • adobe photoshop cs5 mac
  • corel wordperfect office x4 standard
  • adobe creative suite 6 production premium student and teacher edition
  • visual studio 2010 premium
  • autodesk maya 2013
  • nuance pdf converter professional 5
  • adobe cs6 production premium student and teacher edition mac
  • autodesk autocad electrical 2011
  • autodesk autocad map 3d 2009
  • pitney bowes mapinfo professional 11.5
  • adobe cs6 design standard student and teacher edition mac
  • infinite skills - learning bootstrap 2 mac
  • daz bryce 5.5
  • thegrideon access password professional 2.0
  • adobe flash professional cs5.5
  • autodesk navisworks manage 2009
  • microangelo toolset 6
  • autodesk alias design 2012 mac
  • parallels desktop 9 mac
  • futuremark 3dmark 05 pro
  • filemaker pro 11 advanced
  • adobe dreamweaver cc mac
  • infinite skills - advanced html5 training
  • autodesk autocad 2011 mac
  • excel 2010 all-in-one for dummies
  • adobe photoshop cs3 photographers guide
  • quarkxpress 10
  • camtasia studio 8
  • apple mac os x 10.8 mountain lion