Sustainability in Reconciliation

It feels like sustainability has been a trending word for a while now, and for good reasons! It is becoming more and more obvious to all of us that we need to stop allowing economic growth to come at the cost of environmental degradation. We need to increase resource efficiency and promote sustainable lifestyles. Like many leaders and organisations around the world, the UN is urging us to embrace the current crisis as an opportunity for transformation. The world is in transition, we are all adapting. Now is the time to push for profound, systemic change. We must not return to the way the world was. We must 'build back better'.

But why is there so much friction to mobilising such urgent change? How can we motivate and energise one another in a context of economic, social and psychological depression? And when momentum does build, how can it be sustained?

This is the challenge of change. Despite change being vital for our growth and development, where there is change, there is often confusion (lack of clarity and order). Where there is confusion, there can be conflict (clashes and disagreements). In conflict, we lose the creativity to reimagine our future.

At Rose Castle Foundation we believe that conflict isn’t always bad. We interpret conflict as an indication that change is necessary or an opportunity for necessary change. Focusing on the former - conflict as an indication that change is necessary - we listen carefully for the deep cries that are rarely heard during the chaos and power struggles of conflict. Focusing on the latter - conflict as an opportunity for necessary change - we reflect on the habits and systems that are sources of brokenness within ourselves, our communities and our nations, in order to reimagine ways of living that benefit all people and ecosystems.

In the day-to-day running of our work, this approach to conflict transformation is experienced by accompanying leaders and communities in a journey of Encounter-Engage-Restore-Reimagine: encountering those who have previously been out of view to us, or on the other side of a divide; engaging with the challenges and differences that keep us apart; restoring brokenness within and between ourselves and one another, recognising that brokenness in ourselves (and ultimately in our relationship with God) leads to brokenness in our relationships with others and with the planet; and reimagining a collaborative future where even irreconcilable differences can fuel innovative solutions for a society where all can flourish.

During the pandemic, we’ve been experiencing the highs and lows that come with change, occupying the liminal space between the known and the unknown, living with the tension that comes from a need to focus in on ourselves as an organisation - how can we survive sustainably? – and the need to be outward looking and opportunistic – how can we adapt and be present to those in need?

There have been personal challenges too: feeling out of control or immobilised; mixed emotions that make one moment feel alien to the next; surges of creativity and possibility followed by depressions of apathy and helplessness. I wonder what the highs and lows have been for you?

What I find so interesting, is that these experiences are not new. We face them all the time, both organisationally and personally. In so many ways, the pandemic has not only exposed existing, deeply rooted fractures and tensions, but has amplified their consequences. So now that the world’s challenges have come knocking at our front door, how can we embrace the current crisis as an opportunity for sustainable change? We need an approach that equips us for generational change, motivated not because COVID-19 demands it but because the state of humanity and our planet has long required it.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been digesting the 30+ years of working in conflict that has informed our approach to reconciliation, in order to distil the essence of ‘the Rose way’ into 12 actionable habits. These are life-giving habits we have observed in reconcilers the world over, from whom we have so much to learn. The habits promote small behavioural changes that mobilise us as an agent of reconciliation, starting right now.

We are creatures of habit. Whether consciously or not, we build routines to structure our life, which over time can become rituals that develop and sustain culture. These routines and rituals are made up of habits, often strung together as a series where one habit actions the next. Habits can be a powerful expression of our identity and articulate to others what we value. Through our habits, our identity comes into relationship with the world in a real, active way rather than just in a theoretical or conversational way. It is therefore a good and wise habit to review one’s habits! When you think about all the individual actions – thoughts and behaviours – that happen during your day, to what extent are they an accurate expression of what you believe and value?

With many of our usual routines interrupted this year, it can be easy to become short-term in our being and our doing, waiting for the world to return to its familiar ways. As we inhabit a temporary state of being, we might excuse bad habits, telling ourselves that once ‘normality’ is back, we will resume our more reasonable lifestyle. Unhealthy routines can creep up on us and before long we can find ourselves feeling stuck in a way of life that isn’t life-giving to our personal wellbeing or that of our community. Turning the situation on its head, the interruption to our usual routine becomes an ideal opportunity to make better choices about the way we live our life. Our habits are a gift to support you in doing that.

We believe that everyone has the potential to become an agent of reconciliation, a reconciler. But the journey towards reconciliation can be long and complex. We understand its up-and-down nature, the many lows as well as the highs. To form ourselves as sustainable reconcilers we need deeply ingrained habits that strengthen and build on our faith tradition and/or ideology. We are therefore working with Jewish, Christian and Muslim practitioners and theologians to develop a fuller version of these habits within each of the Abrahamic traditions, and look forward to sharing these with you in due course. Meanwhile, we are offering a ‘taster’ of each habit as a 2020 gift, in the hope that it will inspire you to action, and to share your reflections and practices with us.

Building on the theme of ‘gift’, we will be releasing one habit every few days throughout Advent, with the final habit being released on Christmas Day. We have designed a Habits Advent Calendar on our website, which you can find here, and we will also be sharing the release of each habit through our social media channels. We would love to hear how you are putting each habit into practice. And how about sharing your reconciler journey and photos with your social media networks, using the hashtag #HabitsOfAReconciler

We hope that these habits will spark creativity for you as you put them into practice, contextualise them within your own tradition and experience, and discuss with others. The power of habits lies in their ability to mobilise significant impact through small, incremental changes. So as we move into the closing month of 2020, there is an opportunity to step into your reconciler shoes and, one step at a time, together, we can 'build back better'.

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