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Dealing with Faith in Mediation

June 21, 2011

In mediation, to help the parties assess the risk of not winning at trial, I often ask “what if” questions: “What if you are right but the judge or the jury disagrees with you?”  “What if the judge or jury chooses to believe the other sides? “What if the evidence turns out otherwise?” “What if you cannot prove your case because of lack of supporting evidence?”  Often these questions provoke a reassessment that allows concessions to occur which lead to a negotiated resolution.

On the other hand, sometimes people choose not to consider these questions or even to consider that they might not win, even if the odds are against them.  Sometimes, people have hope beyond hope that everything will turn out all right for them.  Sometimes, they fall back on their faith to deflect these questions.  Sometimes they make statements like these: “My faith in God is strong, I know I will win.”  “God will provide.”  “I know that He will help me.”

When I hear these responses, I know I must change course.  One cannot debate another’s personal religious beliefs.  Instead, I may talk in terms of reconciliation or forgiveness, as these are cross-over concepts among many religions.  I may also suggest that we bring Clergy into the mediation, or have Clergy substitute for the mediator, to give their insight and help the parties.

Another option I discovered while thinking about this post is to refer the matter to a different forum for mediation.  In looking online at different treatments of this subject, I was impressed with an article I found on Faith Based, Christian Mediation at http://justpeaceumc.org/2010/02/faith-based-christian-mediation/. This is something I will add to my arsenal of suggestions as well.

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