Episode 5: The Spirit Of Mediation: Heart, Soul, and The Meaning of Peace with Johnnie Scott
The Spirit Of Mediation: Heart, Soul, and The Meaning of Peace
with Johnnie Scott
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Mark Lewis: Welcome to Money Mission and Meaning - Passionate Work, Purpose at Play, where we explore how we can integrate our personal values and professional skills to create pleasure and profit in the business of life. I'm your host Mark Michael Lewis, CEO of Smart Energy Enterprises Inc. or SEE-Inc. A Beautiful Future Now.
Today's show explores the essential purpose that can inspire the work we choose to do and how we can bring our heart and our soul to the challenges we face, making meaning as we make money.
Mark Lewis: Join us as we take a deeper cut at what it means to be a mediator with our guest Johnny Scott, a professional mediator and corporate trainer with a Masters in Public Administration and a Doctor of Jurisprudence. He specializes in employment disputes, especially discrimination issues involving race, sex, disability and age.
Johnny Scott: I really feel satisfaction at what I do because I see myself as contributing to the community at large by healing wounded people so that they can express to themselves more creatively and more completely in what they do.
Johnny Scott: I really feel satisfaction at what I do because I see myself as contributing to the community at large by healing wounded people so that they can express to themselves more creatively and more completely in what they do.
Mark Lewis: So, welcome back Johnny. Last time we spoke, at the end of the interview we really started getting into a subject that is of ultimate importance especially to me and I think to the listeners of this program, which is the idea of spirit, the idea of divinity and what this whole thing is about. What gives us the ultimate sense of meaning and our ultimate sense of happiness is how I like to think about divinity and spirit.
When we were speaking at the end of our last show, you were saying that the thing that gave you the greatest sense of peace and what it is you have accomplished and achieved or the direction you were moving through your career, was that you had recognized that spirit was the most important thing in your life. I thought let's take a few minutes and let's talk about the real issues of what it means to live a spiritual life, both in terms of your work and what it is you're doing professionally and how you move through the world. But even more importantly just how we as human beings confront what it means to be human, how to live a good life and what it all means.
So, to start off I thought we would get down to the nitty-gritty of it and ask us some really tough and fun questions about what spirit is to you. So I'm curious, when you say that love and spirit is what it is all about, what does that mean to you? How do you understand this thing we call spirit?
Johnny Scott: Well, when I use the term love, I am taken back to all the definitional phrases that are out there, particularly ones you may extract from say, for instance, 1st Corinthians 13. It talks about what love is and those kinds of things.
The whole idea that as a concept, if you make your focus in life, love in terms of how you relate to the people, then you are embarking upon a spiritual journey. You don't get bogged down in the conditions and the circumstances and the events and talking about separation. Your focus becomes oneness with everything in life. It becomes also a focus of knowing that all that ever happens in life is good. There is never an event that happens in life that is not meant for your good.
So, when I look at the term love in that context, it is a way to focus my behavior towards other people with whom I come in contact on a daily basis. Ultimately, that means to me that I must look at what I am here to do in this life to contribute. It means then, service. What am I here to do? What am I here to give to others to make this life good, not only for myself but also for those with whom I come in contact?
That's takes me back to where I was at in terms of why I chose mediation because I believe that is a way of giving back to people something that is especially good. It's the ability to resolve their own differences and empowerment issues, those kinds of things. But ultimately for me, it is about service and giving to life during the time that I am here and making a contribution.
Mark Lewis: Well, you said so many things and for fun I think I will play a little Devil’s Advocate and we can get into it a little bit. I will say first that I think everything you just said it fits very well with how I understand things. At the same time, there are a lot of words in there that people understand differently.
I'll start off, when you say that there is nothing ever bad that happens, people say that everything happens for a reason or a purpose and it serves me and that everything is ultimately good, how do you deal with tragic events that happen in life; the social challenges that people have, the deaths and sorrow and pain that are part of everyone's life? How is it that that fits into what you're saying?
Johnny Scott: Well, I'm still a student. I am still growing in this endeavor to live my life according to these terms. So there are occasions when it is hard for me to apply the principle, but I still must because it helps me change my perspective in terms of life itself and my inability to cope with the issues that are out there are, social issues as well.
It helps my understanding, number one that I am one with even my ‘oppressor’ and I am one with the person who may aggress against me. If I look at it in those terms, my perception and my perspective is different and I'm in a better position to address the issue not as this person being a ‘bad person’, but their behavior itself is not being good.
Mark Lewis: That is really the tricky part isn't it? Because we can look and see someone who is being cruel or torturing or killing or raping or any of the horrible things that human beings can and do to one another and say that particular behavior is just horrible and I will do whatever I can to stop it. The behavior itself is destructive and hurtful.
Then the question is, well is the person who is doing the behavior a bad person? Making that distinction I think is one of the more challenging things that we can do. As you said when you were saying that, if you can do that, if you can make that distinction between what someone is doing and their actual person, their actual beating, it allows you to communicate with them in order to actually build some common ground where you can find some resolution to the obvious conflict that is going on.
You are saying that in mediation, that particular piece is what inspires you to do your work such that you get to go out and help people understand one another's good intentions in the face of what is often conflict, aggression and attacking behavior. How is it that you can, in a practical way, and we can answer this from a spiritual perspective, but here is what so-and-so said. And it's not that there is anything wrong with that. That is all beautiful. The thing that fascinates me about spirituality is that it is lived. Every day we have to make choices, and we make choices according to our own grappling with these issues.
I'm curious, how do you personally deal with the pain and suffering that you experience and find meaning when things are sometimes seemingly just painful?
Johnny Scott: Well, the key for me is to be able to refocus and to look again at things from a different perspective. Because personally, me, I could get bogged down in whom I might believe that person to be. And if I did that then I would make all kinds of judgments as to that person. If I can just start from the perspective that this is a good person acting in a ‘bad’ way, then I can separate out their behavior from the person, him or herself.
And if I can separate the behavior from the person, then I am able to forgive the behavior because I know the person is good. So it is a coping mechanism in terms of how I go through this life and how I view the events that affect me in this life or how they affect those that are most important to me.
If I did not do it this way, then I would be sentenced to a life of harboring resentments for every perceived or actual wrong that happens in my life.
Mark Lewis: Yes, and there are so many opportunities to harbor resentment, so many hurts that we could choose to focus on.
We are about to take a break. When we come back I want to talk with you about how we can let go of those resentments and forgive the people with whom we are in conflict, not so much to free them from the responsibility for what they might have done, but to free ourselves from our own resentment such that we can focus on creating experiences that inspire us to make our lives and the lives of others more beautiful.
By Mark Michael Lewis and you are listening to Johnny Scott, mediator and peacemaker on Money, Mission and Meaning - Passionate Work, Purpose at Play. And we will be right back.
Mark Lewis: And we are back with Johnny Scott, mediator and corporate trainer.
Now Johnny, when people get locked into conflict to the point where they need a mediator, they have typically built up powerful resentment towards one another. My own experience and couples work is that until someone can forgive their partner, they can't let go of that resentment. That can become almost like a ball and chain that they drag around, weighing them down and making resolution of the issue almost impossible. How do you work with that? How does the concept of forgiveness fit into the mediation process in your work?
Johnny Scott: Well, in response to your last question Mark, even the practice of law, the practitioners of law have come to embrace the concept of forgiveness and to understand its value. There is even the Stanford Forgiveness Project that talks about forgiveness as part of the process for helping people resolve differences in their lives and how that may be much more important than any other legal issue argued out there in terms of our social conduct.
Whether or not we are able to forgive the other person for what has transpired, forgiveness in my estimation helps me or it frees me from the issues at hand. It helps me move beyond the hurt and the pain. In mediation, I try to, without using the term forgiveness or forgive, help people move beyond their herds and their wounds.
So I will introduce other concepts without using the term forgiveness, which is not a legal term. I will try to help them understand that the way for them to move away from the conflict or get it resolved personally is to find some way to see the person in a different light, separated from their behavior. On that basis, they can forgive them for whatever transgression that may have transpired. In doing so, the person themselves may be freed but the more so, I am freed because now I can release the hurt that I have because I have forgiven.
Mark Lewis: I think about forgiveness. In my book, ‘Keys in the Darkness’, as a matter of fact it is one of the central concepts of the book. The central idea behind forgiveness as I understand it is that we can say ‘no’ to someone's behavior, while still saying ‘yes’ to their person and to their being. The old saying ‘walk a mile in someone's moccasins before you judge them’ - before you put someone in their place you should put yourself in theirs.
In order to forgive someone to the degree that you can discover why they really did it, when you can discover that at heart of the person did something in order to achieve something, which you would approve of; someone might be violent, but when you ask them why they were violent they were violence to protect themselves or to give themselves a sense of power. That sense of power made them feel good about themselves.
Well, we can all appreciate someone feeling good about themselves. We can all appreciate feeling protected and feeling safe. When we can understand that the reason someone is doing something even if the thing that they are doing is unacceptable, we will fight for it. We will do everything we can to stop that from happening to other people, to stop them from allowing them to do that to people. The reason they did it is a reason that we can understand and we can reconnect on a human basis.
Because if the person is bad, if the very person is bad, then there is no connection with them and how could you possibly forgive a person who is bad? In fact, you have to hold onto it. You have to make sure that you are not that bad person. So there is that sense of distance that you cannot afford to let go of.
But when you can understand that the person is doing their best, given what they've got, and different people have different levels of skills and different emotional capacities, they are doing the best with what they've got, you can say yes to the person, while still saying a complete no to the behavior. Once you can do that, you can really let go of the hatred towards the other person. In letting go of that hatred, you free yourself to live a loving life and that sense of forgiveness.
When you are working with mediation situations, I can't imagine that sometimes people have completely collapsed the idea of what the person has done and who they are. What is it like for you when you are working with someone and the light bulb comes on and they actually begin to understand the other person's sense of innocence or that they were doing it for a reason that they can comprehend? What is it like for you?
Johnny Scott: There is no greater sense of achievement for a mediator and when that light goes on. It is a sense of accomplishment, of having helped someone move beyond their hurt and their pain to a position of understanding.
It all comes back to realizing that the person who you point to as being someone who has hurt you, that person, as you point out Mark, is also responding from their own hurt as well. We are all like wounded animals sometimes and we are responding from our wounds. If we could only just look at that and realize that my response is one from hurt and from pain, whether I am the aggressor or the person who is being aggressed upon, then we are able to more understand spiritually who we are as human beings.
Mark Lewis: As you are saying that, one of the things that is very important to me, is that I was brought up in a Christian spiritual tradition and my experience of the tradition was that it was very rule bound. There were certain rules and good people do this and bad people do this. It was really about how you follow the rules. I found that from even a young age just distasteful. It did not resonate with me.
So I ended up leaving the church. I ended up leaving that entire world of religion and was very anti-religious for a number of years until I began to look at what the deeper questions that are being represented are, by the questioning, by the search for what is truly valuable. The question, like you said, wakes you up to the spiritual realization and the spiritual understanding of life.
The thing that is important to me about that is that it is a very practical, valuable turn. As long as you're caught up in hate, you live in a hate filled world and your quality of life is one of hate. The process of forgiveness, from my perspective is very much about letting go of that hate so that you can live in pleasure and love, so you can concentrate on what makes me feel really good down to my very soul.
This is where the question of soul and spirit comes in. This is ‘What is it at my heart that really matters to me? And how can I stay focused on that?’ And to the degree that I am caught up in judgment and hate and I am not willing to forgive, to that degree all of my attention gets focused on conflict.
A conflict filled life is not an enjoyable life. It's one of fighting and aggression. To the degree that you can do what you are talking about, which is why I appreciate and wanted you on the show as a mediator, someone who finds common ground, who finds the common connection between human beings such that they can resolve their challenges and come back to that peace and love that is practically valuable. It is what we are really about.
That practical focus of what it means to be spiritual is something I can appreciate in what you are doing as a profession. I'm curious, how has your work as a mediator transferred over into your personal relationships in terms of what that has made possible for you in the depths of connection and love that you experience?
Johnny Scott: That, given my experience in terms of working with individual disputants or disputes, it has helped me understand that we as human beings will embrace the injury and hold onto it for some indefinite period of time, sometimes a year or two years or decades before we are at a point that we can let it go. Sometimes we can never let it go.
So it has made me go back in and revisit my relationships and look at my new relationships and decide whether or not whatever has happened between me and someone else is something that I want to hold onto and foster and let it become a sore that becomes infected. It makes me now look at everything differently and question the importance of my need to be right, the need to hold onto issues that don't serve me, and my anger, which can be a good thing sometimes.
It makes me start questioning how much I want to hold onto those things. Then I will apply the same skills that I apply in mediation and hopefully dialogue with the person I'm in conflict with and resolve those differences. If I am unable to dialogue with them, like the person who cuts me off on the freeway, and I have to have an internal dialogue where I ask myself what it is that really upset me about that. You really go back and trace the route of your being angry with that person.
A lot of times it is not even a single event. It is a collection of events that have happened over time and I have been able to reference those previous events and put them together in some ‘orderly fashion’ to become angry anew. So do I really want to live a life where I focus upon conflict and my own anger at the various events that have happened? The answer to that is no.
Mark Lewis: And what a great summary of a spiritual perspective of life is asking that question. Really asking the question ‘How do I want to live? Given that the world has conflict, given that people cut me off in traffic, how do I want to live in the face of that?’ I think that's a beautiful summary of the switch from, shall we say a secular to a sacred experience of life, to really ask the question, what is it that is really going to make me happy? What is it that really resonates with who I am and that which I am a part of?
So, we are going to take another break right now and come back to discuss the importance of addressing human emotions and the underlying need for respect that makes relationships and resolution of conflict possible.
By Mark Michael Lewis and we'll be back with more with Johnny Scott on Money, Mission and Meaning in just a moment.
Mark Lewis: And we are back with mediator Johnny Scott.
Now, as we were saying in our previous show, although people tend to get upset about certain issues and use them as the focus of a complaint, it is typically a deeper and more personal experience of disrespect that drives the issue that leads to lasting and unresolved conflict between people. As a mediator and a peacemaker, how do you use mediation to go past that surface conflict to the more fundamental experience of trust, respect and partnership that makes relationship possible in the first place?
Johnny Scott: what I do is help the parties sit down, first of all and listen to the positions that they take and help them look at the commonalities they may have. I also help them understand where they have agreement. Ultimately, I am trying to help them realize that they are more connected than they are disconnected. And because of their relationship, and their work, they have to find some way to continue to see each other in their human light and also in a spiritual light as well.
In the spiritual light they have to see themselves as being good people who have made poor choices in their behavior. If you can get them to start looking at themselves as good people who had made poor choices in their behavior, then they are better able to forgive the other side and say, in essence, let's move forward. Or they cannot forgive the other side and still say I want to move forward with a laying the foundation potentially for forgiveness in the future.
But the trick again is getting people to sit down and understand the commonality and understand why in fact they have differences. I make them sit down and listen to the other side's position and, if not accept it, at least comprehend it.
Mark Lewis: When they can comprehend it they can understand the humanity of it. It's not a bad person who is doing mean things for no reason other than they are bad, but that they are a good person who is doing the best they can given what they have got.
Johnny Scott: Exactly.
Mark Lewis: Once they can see that then they understand, “Oh, they are like me” and they get that sense of connection in the same way that we can say, “Oh, we are part of that divine flow.” There are an infinite number of levels of that, whether or not it is just, “Oh we share common interests. We both love sports or we both care about our kids or we both want something beautiful in our lives and so we are fighting for it and we are willing to take action for it. Sometimes we end up in conflict.”
When we can find that commonality, then we can build the relationship that forms the context in which we can resolve the conflict. Without that relationship, then it is just positions. But once we can get that relationship that it opens the possibility to find mutual solutions.
Johnny Scott: You are so correct because that is the human side of the endeavor to help the parties see each other once again as human beings who are trying to do their best. In some scenarios in mediation, you have people who have been employed together maybe 10 or 15 or 20 maybe even 30 years and something has happened that has now divided them. They have forgotten about that connection over the last decades or whatever. They are focused on one event that separates them.
The key is then sitting them down and helping them find some way to reconnect to the human side of the person they are facing in mediation. They need to reconnect. How can I now see you again as a good person? That can be a challenge sometimes particularly given the allegations in employment disputes, that somehow you have forgotten my humaneness. You have treated me as if I were less than a human being. So I am personally affronted by your behavior towards me.
If you can get parties to get beyond the personal affront then they are better able to resolve their differences. It's not personal anymore. It was just a mistake in judgment. It was just a behavior that is only temporary in nature. It has no real connection to who I am as a human being.
Mark Lewis: You know one of the reasons I wanted you on my show is that for me mediation is a metaphor for all relationships. You can approach any particular relationship as ‘I am right and you are wrong’ or you can approach it as ‘We are both human beings who have values and right now our values are in conflict’.
Johnny Scott: And are valued. Not only do we have values but also we have valuable people who are valuable as human beings. Your value is no greater than mine and mine is no greater than yours. So that kind of equalization happens in mediation whether you are the employer or the employee.
Mark Lewis: Yes, so in mediation I work with couples, I work with businesses, I work with individuals who have inner conflict and it is that exact proposition of ‘are you feeling valued?’ If you're not feeling treated like a human being who has intrinsic value in and of themselves, because I am a human being, because I am part of this divine flow, whatever you want to say, if I am not feeling treated with that level of respect, and I must defend myself against you.
This show Money, Mission and Meaning is an exploration of what it means to do something that you care about because you care about it and have it be a profession. It's how you can bring both of these together. One of the things I notice is whenever I interview and speak with and work with people who really love what they do, the one thing that is common among all of them is that they feel that they are working with human beings to make a difference. They feel that they make a personal connection with the other people such that they have had a real transaction from one human being to another human being.
The thing I love about what you do in your work with mediation is that it is about creating that context where people can begin to bring their real self to their work. Because if I am in conflict with someone, if I feel that someone is not treating me humanely, that they are not treating me as a person who deserves respect and care, what happens is I began to hate working there. It becomes difficult for me to enjoy my job because I feel that my very being is not being respected.
When I can learn to resolve those kinds of conflicts it creates the environment where I can really begin to bring my own talents, my caring, my genius, my intelligence to doing my job with care. Once I can do my job with care, then I can love it. Then I can bring my gifts to it. Then I can feel my gifts being received by the environment and by the people with whom I am working. I can make a contribution.
It's when I am making a contribution, when I am doing something that I feel expresses my real values through my work, then I can love my work. Then I can live a life I love.
So I just want to say thank you Johnny for coming here today and for being willing to discuss these somewhat esoteric and private and somewhat tricky topics. As we say goodbye to our listeners for the day, I'm curious, given everything that we have said, is there anything else you would like to say to sum up or leave a message with the listeners about what you feel is really important about what we have spoken about?
Johnny Scott: Well; only one final comment and I guess it kind of brings it all together. We are in this endeavor in mediation to help someone heal their wounded human dignity. In employment, healing that dignity is important in order to help the person be creative and be of service to their community. In employment we are of service to the community.
So I really feel satisfaction with what I do because I see myself as contributing to the community at large by healing wounded people so that they can express themselves more creatively and more completely in what they do. It is not important what they do because all that we do is important and it has value.
So I thank you too Mark for allowing me the chance to sit here and explore my own perceptions as a mediator. Because in doing so I think that having had this conversation with you, I will become an even better mediator. So I thank you sir.
Mark Lewis: My absolute pleasure. Thank you for coming out. As you were saying that, I just want to say that there are so many levels of community. When someone can have their wounds healed and begin to bring their creative self, their real values and their intelligence to something, they make the company work. They make their family work. They make their friendships work, their teams work and their larger communities and eventually how they participate in the state, national or even international level to the degree that they participate.
So thank you for your work. Thank you for your willingness. I look forward to talking with you again.
Johnny Scott: Thank you Mark.
Mark Lewis: This is Mark Michael Lewis with Money, Mission and Meaning - Passionate Work, Purpose at Play. We have been speaking with Johnny Scott, mediator.
For more information on Johnny's mediation practice, or to have him train or work with your organization around diversity, discrimination, sexual harassment or alternative dispute resolution, please visit his site at dismedarb.com.
For text and transcripts of this show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, please visit our website at www.personallifemedia.com.
I'm your host Mark Michael Lewis, CEO of Smart Energy Enterprises, SEEInc. - A Beautiful Future Now. That brings us to the end of our show. Thanks for listening and join us next week on Money, Mission and Meaning - Passionate Work, Purpose at Play, as we interview cutting edge business leaders who are committed to making a positive difference in the world about the motivation and the practical ideas that make pleasure and profit in the business of life.
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