Irreconcilable differences

As my friends know, one of my current projects is Lifting the Gloom: An antidepressant primer of short stories. Here is its next instalment, written between about 4 and 6 a.m. this morning.


Sometimes, differences cannot be reconciled. You have your opinion of what happened and why, and honestly believe it. I have my opinion of what happened and why, and I honestly believe it, and our opinions are diametrically opposed.

This is then an endless ping-pong game, only it’s lobbing explosive insults, and studied slights, and scoring points in an endless win-lose game that everyone loses.

The solution is not yet another attempt to decide who is right, to impose my truth on you, or to buckle under and accept what I know to be wrong.

The solution is for both of us to accept the difference, and each other. If you look for it, there is a lot of common ground. We have a lot more in common than what separates us. When we put all that past warfare behind us, we can work together for common goals, parts of a harmonious team. I can respect you as a colleague and comrade, and in time, even come to love you as a friend.

A very wise man said, about 2100 years ago, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” An equally wise man said, about 2600 years ago, “Anger is a hot coal you pick up to throw at someone. It is your hand that gets burned.” And my grandmother taught me, over 70 years ago, “Every fight starts with you hitting back.”

Those were mutually hurtful times, back then. And since, we have been hitting back, over and over, building the hurt into two mountains of anger and pain. That was then and now is now. Now, let us throw those mountains into the sea, so we can heal our burnt hands, burnt hearts. We no longer need to carry that terrible weight around on our backs.

And I say this, and in this way, because mixed metaphors can make a great salad.

Let us start a new game. I am going to do my best to avoid acting and speaking in a way you may find hurtful, but I am a fallible human, and old habits die hard. So, I am asking you to be my helper. When you notice me doing things the new way, show your appreciation. When you notice me slipping back into the old, destructive way, refuse to respond with anger, anxiety or hurt. Instead, gently and lovingly remind me that I am not doing this any more.

And this is mutual. I want you to ask me to be your helper too, in exactly the same way.

This converts a source of conflict into a pattern of cooperation.

All the above is from the heart, but it is based on a great deal of research.

A huge amount of evidence shows that memory is shaped by emotion, and distorts over time. Eyewitness testimony is inherently faulty. So, it is counterproductive to base reconciliation on first coming to an agreement about what is true. In any case, even if there is solid evidence to show that one side is right, the other wrong, that still maintains the win-lose dynamic.

Forgiveness and acceptance are among the major messages of all the great religions and philosophies, because they work. They are major tools of positive psychology.

And the tool of mutual helping in habit change is also supported by a great deal of research as a relationship-healing tool.

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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4 Responses to Irreconcilable differences

  1. Sue Rich says:

    I think you did well on laying yourself out there. But you’re going to have to do a little work, too. Not everyone realizes their words might be taken the wrong way. You need to lovingly and gently remind them, when someone slips, to use more kindness in their responses. I’m also a professional grandparent, and soon to be the great-grandmother of twins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Oh yes, no tradesman works with a single tool.
      Forgiveness doesn’t mean excusing behaviour. No one has the right to hurt another, and sometimes I may need to pull someone up for being hurtful to me or to someone else. That’s what assertive communication is for.


  2. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thank you, Colin. The 6-9 picture was sent to me by a friend. It’s very true, isn’t it?


  3. pendantry says:

    Wonderful! And I love the graphic 🙂


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