"I get frustrated with all the talk around here, I've been spending most of my days by myself in my unit or watching TV," Jack admitted, recently. Jack is an inmate at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent and we've met together regularly the ninth months he has been here.
This retreating away from others is Jack's pattern. He gets really hard on others all around him. We often discuss ways to get away from the stress with short time-outs racked back in his unit.
As a Christian, he meets with several others for Bible reading and fellowship most days. In the process, he gets disrupted and stays away from the guys who really care about him for several days.
Jack is writing out his testimony. We talk about what the Lord has done and continues to do in his life. Retreating from conflicts isn't solving his inner turmoil.
In balance, most of the men don't tell the chaplains everything that happens when they share about their conflicts in their units in the day rooms. The picture presented to us is most often warped. Once recently, the day officer who knows Jack well even confronted Jack about staying away from the others.
Preparing for the Republic of the Congo in May
Before I share more about Jack, I am raising support, about 1/4 completed toward $3,500, and making plans for another PFC short-term missions trip to the Republic of the Congo beginning May 1 with Nate Bean and Greg and Rhonda Von Tobel. I'll be overseeing finances with our Excel spreadsheet again and coordinating our airport travel details as part of my servant-leadership training.
We are planning three evangelistic prison services and two conferences to encourage those already serving in prisons and others wanting to get started.
This is the geographically smaller and more western on the two Congo nations in Africa, the other being the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We will be flying into Brazzaville, on the southeast borde
Conflicts stir most days
It is common for conflicts to stir just below the surface most days--the reality of jail and prison life everywhere. Often, it takes very little for these little things to erupt. The men stay in an open day room with circular tables and plastic chairs. They can play cards and watch TV while they are out. They can walk around and get exercise in the contained recreation area. Guys talk about their lives outside the jail and often tell expanded stories about what is going on.
The guys get frazzled around twisted attitudes and short tempers. Some get frustrated enough to raise their voices, argue, and occasionally break into fights. I remind the guys they are incarcerated. Some purposefully look for ways to get under their fellow-inmates skin. Others are manipulating controllers. If they can draw another man into their behaviors, they like it all the more--they think highly of getting others suckered in.
Jack and the other men know they struggle with conflicts. It is a defeating cycle and for many of them, a pattern in their lives since boyhood. We read and carefully walk through key Bible passages with men about practical spiritual growth so their wives, children, and families recognize their transformation. Some grow a great deal. Others talk a good game. Another group deeply cares and makes small but real incremental steps of growth.
Recently, I attended a Friday-Saturday regional seminar in Beaverton, Oregon about Biblical peacemaking--applying the gospel to conflicts of daily life through Peacemaker Ministries out of Billings, Montana with some new friends from the Maple Valley Presbyterian Church.
I read a book by Ken Sande around 20 years ago called, "The Peacemaker." I've returned back several times as conflicts arose among my own family, our employment, and stir within our churches we attend. While I served as a pastor in two small churches, we struggled very unsuccessfully with unresolved conflicts. Conflict is everywhere.
Over the years, I've gone to seminars that seemed so good while attending but when I returned the material didn't fit. I thought it would all be so good. While at this event, it was very clear I could start using the material, immediately. Starting this past week, I actively tweak my presentations for the individuals I am sharing with.
Escape or attack modes
Returning to Jack, in my inmate discussion, Peacemaker Ministries presentation notes we revert to escape or attack when we are confronted with a sticky conflict.
I asked Jack and he didn't hesitate. He retreats. He runs away. He hides within himself. I asked what his wife would say. He said, she would say I escape away from the family.
The escaping person might go so far as to consider suicide. Most often, they flee or live in a world of denial. In some ways, this escape mode is every bit as aggressive. The passive aggressive response is an assertive way to seek attention and manipulate others.
The attacking person might consider murdering another person. Yes, again, that is far out. They will verbal assault or accusation. Their legal action is litigation.
The purpose is to move further inside the peacemaker responses. the peaceful person overlooks an offense toward reconciliation. Negotiation with compromise and win-win between the parties is the goal. Mediation with a third party to facilitate compromise may be required. We want to draw as close to win-win, as possible. If needed, we agree to a mediated resolution so we can move ahead productively.
In order to resolve conflict, it seems so basic to note both parties need to be willing to participate. We know, sometimes circumstances are so strained communication and participation becomes very hard.
How do you respond to unresolved conflict or when you don't get your way? Do you escape or attack? Where are you at on the diagram?