jandrewm (jandrewm) wrote in quakers,

Conflict in Meeting

First, I have to say that I'm pretty new to Quakerism, though I have been attending my local meeting regularly for almost two years.  I'm fairly active in the meeting-- serving on two committees, participating in both local  and Yearly Meeting events, etc.  I can say without reservation that the RSOF is a positive force in my life.

But I struggle with the problem of conflict in my meeting.  I realize that interpersonal conflict is an inevitable part of any social group, and that Friends have a long tradition of addressing the problem.  There's even an evolved language that Friends use to face down conflict, eg "eldering."  No doubt our meeting's ongoing difficulties with personal tension are typical.

Yet my recognition of all that doesn't negate the painful feelings that arise when hostility enters the meeting room, when long-held grudges boil over and harsh words are spoken.  After a few months of regular attendance at my meeting, I came close to abandoning this "experiment" with Quakerism because some Friends were so consistently rancorous, divisive, disruptive.  I had to ask myself: "Do I need this negativity in my life right now?"

I decided to keep coming to meeting, but I still sometimes feel the urge to flee.  Or (far worse, I think) I feel a desire to lash out, to silence others with a cutting remark, to cause pain in response to my own.  These thoughts are disturbing, though perhaps they can be seen as an opportunity to grow spiritually.

So I'm wondering whether Friends here on LJ have any thoughts on conflict in meeting and how to deal with it.  Has conflict threatened the stability of your meetings?  Have you struggled to respond to conflict in the spirit of Friends' testimonies?  Has conflict been addressed openly as an issue in your meetings?
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