Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I don’t usually tie my posts to special events or holidays, but I think that celebration of the new year is particularly appropriate for dispute resolution professionals. It is a time to acknowledge the inevitability of change. The old year is gone; the new year is bright with promise. The past has passed; the future beckons.

This is not to suggest, of course, that what has gone before has no bearing on what is to come. As Santayana taught us: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."* Civil litigants, though, must find a way to put the past behind them; to let go of grievances, whether real or imagined, and go forward. While the past must instruct the future, it shouldn’t control it.

People generally sue other people because they perceive themselves to have been wounded — sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. Resolution won’t happen until those wounds are dealt with in some fashion. An essential step in dealing with wounds, however, is to recognize that they cannot be undone, or even fully healed. All that can be accomplished is to prevent the wounds from becoming more infected.

"Time," as someone once said, "marches on." You don’t have to forget; you don’t have to forgive; but you do have to move on. People cannot control what has happened, but they can and should control what will happen — because it is inevitable that something will.

* George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Vol. 1, Reason in Common Sense, (Dover Publications edition, 1980; originally published by Charles Scribner & Sons, 1905).


Debra Healy said...

Great post!

I believe treating the "wounds" with empathy and compassion is also essential for those of us seeking to assist "the wounded."

We must all work toward listening and deeper understanding - these are the seeds of resolution.

Best wishes for 2010! I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate your posts.

Debra Healy
Healy Conflict Management Services

John Lassey said...


Thank you for your vote of confidence. I agree that people must feel empathy and compassion from the mediator before they are ready to move on. Even if they understand on an intellectual level that they have to "let go," they also must feel that somebody is listening to them.