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Closing the door to conflict.

According to Rotella, Gold, Andriana & Scharf (2002), families, partnerships, and friendships can break up over what appear to be surmountable conflicts. I would add that in the workplace staff is included in this concept and the efforts to control the damages from conflicts can be very unproductive. Without an indepth discussion of the issues, conflicts, and differences, the concepts of reconciliation and forgiveness are likely to be confused with power, empowerment and revenge. It is important for leadership to understand conflict, how to work to resolution and the processes considered significant as part of the resolution including forgiveness and reconciliation. The following is quoted from an article in the Times News on July, 2006, forgiveness is the beginning and follows with reconciliation:

The Bible says, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head" (Romans 12:20). In other words, by refusing to seek revenge, and treating someone in a way that is opposite to the way they treated us, the cycle can be broken, and peace can begin.

Forgiveness is a process or the result of a process that involves changes in our emotions and attitudes. It is actually what I believe to be the first step in breaking the cycle and precludes reconciliation. According to Abigail & Cahn (2007), forgiveness is an actual letting go of the feelings of retaliation and revenge (p. 232). Forgiveness is characterized by a reduction in the focus and moving from negative to positive feelings. Moore (2003) discusses that forgiveness is actually a change in feelings but certainly does not infer that there will be no consequences as a result of the deed. Moore (2003) believes that forgiveness should likely only occur when there it is merited with good reasons noted.

Reconciliation as noted by Abigail & Cahn (2007) is a behavioral process where a specific action is taken that follows forgiveness and affords us the opportunity to repair a relationship or potentially even create a new one (p. 232). Forgiveness is seen as a mental process that follows conflict where reconciliation is more of the external process or actions associated with our choice to forgive and in my mind to forget. Reconciliation lends us to move forward in our lives and relationships and supports us in regaining the trust and foundation of our relationships with others.

In resolving conflict forgiveness is the emotional and mental components and reconciliation is the actions as a result of our forgiveness. I believe reconciliation to be all inclusive of the action(s) relating to forgiveness. I think Moore (2003) puts a twist to the idea of reconciliation moving us to see that forgiveness and reconciliation can be contradictory. For example, if you simply come to terms with what happened, you may have to ask yourself are you able to completely forgive and reconcile or are you simply going through the motions. As a result of thinking through the conflict, one may understand what happened and one may not like it but in order to move forward one must take it internally and decide if they are ready and able to move forward with possible consequences. I believe this is a crucial step that must occur in order to move forward in any relationship, including working relationships. At work some staff simply maneuvers through the motions of forgiving and are not really on board with full forgiveness and reconciliation. My experience with this reaction to conflict tells me that the staff is either not ready or not willing to come to terms with the conflict and what surrounds the conflict. They may choose to go through the motions in lieu of turning internally to evaluate, decipher, forgive and forget. For example, I have seen staff nurses upset with the numbers of nurses working on a given shift that are not the number that the matrix for their unit and that number of patients calls for. Staff become upset, disgruntled and vocalize to each other about their feelings and occasionally do this in inappropriate places and at inappropriate times. They sometimes refuse to help each other, not respond to the another staff member's needs, and in essence cause more chaos and conflict than if they had just teamed together and got the work done. The following day they may be better able to discuss the situation rationally with their supervisor and peers and come to terms that staffing situations are sometimes unavoidable. In their minds I think they believe that the conflict is over and done but I do not think there is real forgiveness. I find that many times nurses internally feel that the staffing shortage is an effort by management to make their lives harder and that no one actually is concerned for their working conditions. Nursing staff can be very good at portraying feelings of forgiveness to those around them and may even appear to have reconciled with their peers and the management for the shift's issues. However when something similar occurs again they at times repeat the same process over. There is not any true forgiveness, no reconciliation and in the end dissatisfied staff and a dysfunctional team. When they do not forgive and reconcile with each other, the conflict returns and can become intensified. Conflict must be discussed and analyzed all the way down to the heart of issue(s).

Wilmot & Hocker (2007) discuss how all of the ways that people mistreat each other can cumulate to become the foundation for the discussion of forgiveness. When staff lack trust or believe that no one cares about them they may not be able to move to forgiveness and reconciliation. The issues need to be explored including why was there a shortage of staff, who was notified and what happened in the background by management to prevent. The conflict, forgiveness and the resolution needs to be communicated to the staff and a solid trusting relationship established. Once established, staff likely can not only move to forgiveness but reconcile with their management team, their peers and the organization.

Reconciliation may lead to changes in relationships in the workplace with some being good and others not so good. Communication is discussed and is recognized as key to being able to move forward. Moore (2003) discusses reconciliation in terms of truth about what happened in the past, mercy and the ability to accept forgiveness, justice by making things right and peace by harmony. Moore (2003) talks about "closing the door" (p. 344) and that this is not always easy to do. I can attest to that however at the same time I can clearly see that closing the door to conflict is critical. It is a final step to resolving conflict and bringing about forgiveness and reconciliation. This ultimately leads conflict to rest and in some way allows for recuperation to transpire and change to begin and survive.


Abigail, R., & Cahn, D. (2007). Managing conflict through communication. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.

Moore, C. (2003). The mediation process (3rd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rotella, M., Gold, S., Andriani, L., & Scharf, M. (2002). I thought we'd never speak again: The road from estrangement to reconciliation. Publishers Weekly, 249(13), 73. Retrieved September 2, 2009 from ProQuest database

Two wrongs don't make a right. (2009). Times News. Retrieved September 4, 2009 from ProQuest database

Wilmot, W., & Hocker, J. (2007). Interpersonal conflict (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

V. Lynn Waters

Faculty, University of Phoenix

Chief Nursing Officer
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Author:Waters, V. Lynn
Publication:Oklahoma Nurse
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1U7OK
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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