“I hate him!!!” shouted a client, as she broke into tears. The torrent that followed detailed every betrayal, broken promise, and lost hope. The man she once promised to love with all her heart was now the enemy.
As the mediator, my mind spun. How do you help parents set aside their own deep hurt and justified mistrust to work together? Then, I read the story of Ivo Markovic in a friend’s blog.
Coffee for the enemy
A Franciscan monk from Sarajevo, Markovic returned to his home town after Muslims had killed every member of his family in the cultural meltdown of the early 1990’s. In his book, Free of Charge, Miroslav Volf describes Markovic approaching the home of his now-dead brother occupied by a Muslim woman.
As he approached the house, she was waiting for him, a cigarette in her mouth and her rifle cocked. She barked: Go away or I’ll shoot you.
No, you won’t shoot me, said Father Markovic in a gentle but firm voice, you’ll make a cup of coffee for me.
She stared at him for a while, then slowly put the rifle down and went to the kitchen. Taking the last bit of coffee she had, she mixed in some already used grounds to make enough coffee for two cups.
And they, deadly enemies, began to talk as they partook in the ancient ritual of hospitality: drinking coffee together.
Volf goes on to describe the visits that followed. Where connection between enemies deepened and healing began. In this Volf offers deep insight for people whose marriages are coming apart. Who have come to see each other as the enemy.
Find the common connection. Build from there.
In the Middle East the deeply ingrained culture of hospitality defines the identity of every person. As war violently pitted neighbor against neighbor, the tradition of offering coffee as an act of hospitality drew Markovic and his Muslim neighbor to common ground.
It works for couples as well
What goes deeper than that the injuries you have inflicted on each other?
- Your hopes for the children?
- Your longing for a secure future?
- Your desire to walk with integrity in the choices you make?
As each of you purposely remembers the deeper values, the connection eases present hurt and opens a way for working together.
You can win this battle. It starts with finding a way past being enemies to common ground. From there healing flows and new life begins. True victory.