I raised my head above the side fender of the old Chrysler just in time to get shot in the eyeball with an extra large rubber band gun.  We had been told not to shoot each other with the guns, but we were ten-year-old boys, it was summer, and we had just watched a John Wayne movie.  I was sure my eyeball had disintegrated. At that age, wearing pirate patch the rest of my life was okay.

My nephew, Jeff, who shot me, gave me mirrored aviator glasses to cover up the injury. We walked nonchalantly into the house, hoping that the two resident matriarchs would assume I was a hippie.  I was busy plotting revenge when dinner interrupted us and I was forced to reveal my wound.

The UN ought to hire my Mom and Sister, Carmen, as negotiators.  They were masters of forced conciliation, weapons disarmament, compromise, and sanctions.  We don’t need Special Envoys to go to the Middle East; just send my Mom and Sister. They can prevent the escalation of armed conflict better than any politician.

Devil “Anse” Hatfield and Randall ‘Ol Ran’ McCoy, were the paterfamiliases that started the infamous feud between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s at the end of the Civil War. The feud started with a simple disagreement and for the next 30+ years cost both families considerable losses. After a while, people didn’t know why they were fighting; they just fought.

There are numerous cycles of conflict models, but all of them can condense to this:

Cycle of Conflict

  • 1st Offense: real or imagined
  • Retaliation
  • Retaliation ad nauseam, ad infinitum

What my Mom and Sister taught us is really quite simple:

  • Someone has to stop throwing punches:
    • To stop the spiraling cycle, one person has to stop retaliating.
  • Work towards forgiveness:
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean the other person is right; it means that you understand that conflict only escalates and ultimately drags innocent people into the fight.
  • Find common ground:
  • While compromise is sometimes perceived negatively, the lack of compromise really means you demand your own way and your own solution.
  • Try to see the big picture:
  • Mom and Sis knew that kids wars turn into adult wars. Families across the world can trace their feuds often back to childhood encounters.
  • You can’t leave the handle sticking out:
  • A guy once told me he and his wife did not get hysterical during conflict; they got historical. They kept dragging up the past.
  • You value relationship more than being right.
  • Our desire for justice sometimes has to be overridden with a desire for peace.
  • Forgiveness does not mean you have to forget.
  • Forgiveness means you take your hands off the other person’s neck. The inability to forget, though, protects us from getting bit by the same dog over and over again.

Have you ever been involved in a Hatfield and McCoy feud with your family, church, job, or community? What helped end the feud? Or, assuming it’s still going on, what could help end it?

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I also blog on the topic of global hunger at these sites:

Universities Fighting World Hunger – Hunger:  A Conversation That Matters

Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit 2013