Grace at the Mediation Table

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Today's post will be a little different to normal.

Expect raw, vulnerable, and personal. That's just where my heart is at right now.

How do you feel about reading my journal?

Liar, liar.

The other day, I was talking to a client who I knew was lying to me. It's not unusual in this line of work, and, as usual, there were several clues: Things didn't add up when I put their story together. Important details were missing from their account of the situation. They awkwardly dodged my specific questions with vagueness. My spidey-senses were tingling.

I asked a few more questions to see if there was room for a different perspective, acknowledged their repeated assertion that they were determined to travel in their current direction, and closed the file with a sigh.

Later, when I thought about the conversation, and did my usual self-analysis, I sighed again. I had caught myself feeling judgemental and smug. And that's not who I want to be.

My aim isn't to show people I can 'see through them', it's to somehow offer them the opportunity to turn around.

I'm not aiming to leave people with guilt, but to offer them grace and mercy.

Grace at the Mediation Table

So, what does grace look like at the mediation table?

For me, it could be:

  • "I can see how you felt you needed to do that. What would you like to do if this happens again?"

  • "What do you know about yourself that tells you you are able to do this diffferently?"

  • "If I asked your closest friend about your strengths in this area, what would they say?"

  • "If this problem was resolved somehow, what would you notice yourself doing differently?"

You've changed.

I'm self-aware enough to know that I'm not naturally merciful. My inclination is to want people to 'pay for their crimes'; to see themselves in the light, to take a long hard look at their failures, and to do the hard work to make it right. In my teenage years, I would have told you that capital punishment was a just response to most crimes.

Oh, how differently I see the world 20 years later.

Insisting that someone 'do the time' might satisfy that old justice-streak, but does it leave room for people to change?

What if I put myself in their shoes? Do I feel the most able to admit my faults when I am under scrutiny or attack, or do I surrender more easily when I'm in a safe, comforting space?

What if I could do it in a way that preserved not only the relationship, but also my own sense of dignity and self-worth?

I think I'd walk through that door.

I think most people would.

Saving face and self-worth.

Sometimes, in mediation circles, we talk about giving the client the opportunity to "save face".

"'Face' can be described as a combination of social standing, reputation, influence, dignity, and honor. Causing someone to lose face lowers them in the eyes of their peers. Saving face or "building face" raises their self worth ..." [Greg Rodgers]

If I take a gracious stance and allow someone to save face - if I uphold someone's dignity and honour - am I condoning their less-than-ideal behaviour, or am I opening the door for them to consider the possibility that they might not be 100% right?

If I ask questions for insight, and not for blame, do I increase the chances that the little spark of understanding will light up in their heart?

And if I offer a safe place, will this instill courage in them to admit when they are in the wrong, or apologise, or ask for forgiveness - or even just start to change that thing that was taking everyone down the wrong track?


I certainly didn't do that this time. I didn't leave room for change, there was no grace in my posture, and I didn't give them the courage they needed to take a step towards each other. And I'll never know if it would have helped to bring this family some peace.

A new future, starting now.

The way I led this conversation wasn't a good model of grace for them, and it wasn't a good use of the grace that I have received.

(What do you mean, Shona? Don't you always do everything right the first time?) Ha!

I have been spared. I have made (big) mistakes, and I have been given the space - time and time again - to grow, and change, and turn around, and do things differently. Granted, not everyone on my path has cheered me on, but mostly I have been encouraged to mature, grow, and soften, and to move towards being the person I was created to be.

This. This is what I want to carry into my mediations.

Not blame and condemnation, but space for quietly realising our faults (including my own), and graciously changing direction. Space for facing each other and saying 'sorry'. Space for believing that the future can start over, from now.

If someone is caught doing something wrong, forgivingly [gently, humbly] lead that person back to the right path, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. [Galatians 6:1, paraphrase]

I hope this post gave you some insight into my heart for my clients, and helped you to get to know me (and my over-analytical mind) a little better. If this has helped you or sparked a thought for you, please do connect with me on Instagram or Facebook, or via email.

Until next time. Shona xx

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