Maxwell Institute Podcast #141: Loving Dangerously, with Chad Ford

  • Knowing how to transform conflict is critical in both our personal and professional lives. Yet, by and large, we are terrible at it. The reason, says longtime mediator Chad Ford, is fear. When conflict comes, our instincts are to run or fight.

    To transform conflict, Ford says we need to turn toward the people we are in conflict with, put down our physical and emotional weapons, and really love them with the kind of love that leads us to treat others as fellow human beings, not as objects in our way. We have to open ourselves up with no guarantee that anyone on the other side will do the same. While this can feel even more dangerous than conflict itself, it allows us to see the humanity of others so clearly that their needs and desires matter to us as much as our own.

    Ford shows dangerous love in action through examples ranging from his work in the Middle East to a deeply moving story about reconciling with his father. He explains why we disconnect from people at the very time we need to be most connected and the predictable patterns of justification and escalation that ensue. Most importantly, he gives us a path to practice dangerous love in the conflicts that matter most to us.

    In today’s episode of the Maxwell Institute podcast, we explore the meaning of dangerous love, how it works on a theological and a practical level, and how we can be Latter-day Saint peacebuilders in the world. 
    As always, please follow us on social media at @byumaxwell on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign up for our newsletter at https://mi.byu.edu/monthly-mi-news/. Without any further ado, here’s Professor Chad Ford.

  • Knowing how to transform conflict is critical both in our professional and personal lives. Yet, by and large we are terrible at it. The reason, says long time mediator, Chad Ford, is fear. When conflicts come our instinct is to run or fight. The transformed conflict, Professor Ford says, we need to turn toward the people we are in conflict with. Let down our physical and emotional weapons and really love them with the kind of love that leads us to treat others as fellow human beings, not as objects in our way. Ford shows this love that he calls dangerous love in action through examples ranging from his work in the Middle East, to a deeply moving story about reconciling with his father. He explains why we disconnect from people at the very time we need to be most connected and the predictable pattern of justification and escalation that ensues. Most importantly, he gives us a path to practice dangerous love in the conflicts that matter most to us. In today’s episode of the Maxwell Institute’s podcast, we explore the meaning of dangerous love, how it works on a theological and practical level, and how we can be Latter-day Saint peacebuilders in the world. As always, please follow the Maxwell Institute on social media at @byumaxwell on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook and sign up for our newsletter @mi.byu.edu/monthly/mi/news without any further ado, here’s professor Chad Ford speaking on his book, Dangerous Love.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Chad Ford, welcome to the Maxwell Institute Podcast.

     

    Chad Ford: So stoked to be here and live in the studio!

     

    Joseph Stuart: What a treat it is to have you all the way from Laie. Professor Ford, you work at the David O. McKay Center for intercultural understanding at BYU-Hawaii. What do you do there?

     

    Chad Ford: It’s really a peacebuilding conflict resolution center that is based off of David O. McKay’s original founding prophecy at BYU-Hawaii. So when David O. McKay was a young apostle in 1921, he took a trip around the world, post-World War I on assignment from the church to check in on all the branches of the church that existed outside of North America where they had recalled all missionaries and what have you at the start of World War l. And on that journey he witnessed a lot of destruction. He witnessed really the first contact that they’d had with a lot of branches of the church in several years after World War I. And on one of those trips he ended up in Hawaii up in Laie where the church had a plantation. In Laie of Latter-day Saints, Hawaiian Latter-day Saints, and while he was there he witnessed a lot of people from a lot of different cultures that were getting a long and what have you and he had a vision that there should be a school built there, that it should bring people from all over the world, and that it was there to promote peace, the opposite of what he had seen as part of the destruction of World War I and his idea wasn’t particularly well received in Salt Lake. Laie at the time was a back watered dirt road place on the North Shore of Hawaii, I don’t even think you could fly to Hawaii back then. You had to take a ship. It was a very unlikely place to be building the next BYU, probably the most unlikely place in the world you could think of. But this became a passion project for him for years and it wasn’t until 1954 when he became Prophet and President of the Church that he finally had the authority to follow through on his vision and when he went to dedicate the school, standing in a sugarcane field, that’s about what it looked like in Laie back then. He said from the school will go men and women who will be influences towards the establishment of peace internationally and he still had this grand vision all of these years later about what the school was to become. And he came back to Laie several times while he was still the prophet, to reiterate that point over and over again. You know, the truth is that BYU-Hawaii really became like most universities. It was very international in its student body and that part was true, but as far as what it taught and what it did, it looked like a lot of other universities. So it actually wasn’t until Eric Shumway became the president and this was in the 1990s that he became the president, and Neal A. Maxwell comes out to inaugurate President Shumway and brings back this grand vision that David O. McKay originally had. And I was a student at BYU-Hawaii at the time so I was sitting in the Cannon Activity Center just watching the inauguration. Neal A. Maxwell was my favorite apostle back then so it was really exciting that he was coming out for the inauguration and he spoke about all of this in his speech inaugurating President Shumway and charged him with coming back to that original vision from President McKay. And that was the first time for me personally that I began to triangulate, “Oh this is why there’s a BYU here!” I didn’t really know. This makes more sense about some of the experiences that I had had on the ground just as a student. I was a history major with a poli-sci minor at the time. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with that at the time and it was that moment that really crystallized, oh maybe I want to learn about this and I went back and studied the history. I actually went up to the archives at BYU-Hawaii and started to dig into this and then it launched a trajectory for me of studying conflict resolution, going to Georgetown Law, really diving into Peacebuilding and then President Shumway is still the president in 2005 inviting me back to campus to start the David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding which was really charged with taking President McKay’s vision and imparting it on our students, staff, faculty, and community. I had a pretty broad mandate, right? Like this is the vision, what would that look like here? And it was everything from projects to classes, to work in the community to ultimately became a certificate and then ultimately a major at BYU Hawaii and intercultural peacebuilding with a focus on thinking about not just family conflict or international conflict, but when you’re bringing cultures together and all these different types of ideas and backgrounds or whatever. How do you work through that to create peace? And that’s our mission at the center. We have an academic mission, we have a lot of service opportunities. You know at any one time, we have a couple of 100 students flowing through the program as majors or certificates and some really cool alumni that are out now working in the world really as peace builders, and really fulfilling of President McKay’s prophecy.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Marvelous to hear. How did you get your first job in conflict resolution?

     

    Chad Ford: I ended up deciding that I’m gonna go to law school. I couldn’t really figure out, how do you go do peacebuilding, right? Like and no one I talked to had a good answer for me either. However, one of my mentors was in the history department at BYU Hawaii. William Wallace was native Hawaiian, he was an attorney, he really was teaching Hawaiian history. And I became really interested in Hawaiian history. It seemed like an interesting thing to study while I was at BYU Hawaii and he was working on the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and native indigenous rights. And he was the one who really encouraged me to try to go to law school. He thought that there was a really great way to take what I was learning in history and think about how to remedy the wrongs of history. And so I ended up going to Georgetown in part because they had a really strong international program, they were interested about these sorts of things. And it was really his inspiration. But then I got there. And I was like, man I miss history. I don’t really like law very much. This was really hard for me. And by the way, what I thought was going to be happening there, really, we were learning corporate law, tax law, and criminal law. And that’s, that’s, that’s the thrust of your first year of law school. And so it wasn’t until Dennis Ross, who was the chief negotiator for U.S. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians shows up on campus to give a lecture during his stint there. At that he really started talking about peacemaking  and it started to crystallize with me. His main point was thinking about in ways that were really actually eerily similar to what Elder Maxwell had said at President Shumway’s inauguration that we always sort of think about peace is making peace between leaders. There’s always a place for that diplomacy. In fact, that’s what he did. He was a US diplomat. But that where peace processes are often failing is because the people on the ground aren’t ready or prepared for peace. They’re so worked up into the conflict that when their leaders actually have breakthrough moments at Camp David, or wherever, they go back to their constituencies and try to sell them on that peace, It’s a sense of betrayal there, and they feel like our leaders have sold us out. And so this idea of grassroots peacebuilding, people that people peace building. Ross, it’s going to be on your generation to figure out how to do that. That’s not how we’ve really been trained. And so I actually waited in line to talk with him after his talk was over to find out well, where can I get that? What class do I take at Georgetown? And he basically was like, I don’t think you’re gonna find a class at Georgetown. But there is this man, Wallis Warfield who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King. He’s down at George Mason University in their institute for conflict analysis and resolution. And I think he’s the right guy to talk to. And so I actually skipped school the next day, went down, waited for him, talked to him. He gave me a copy of a book, Strength to Love by Martin Luther King and asked me to read it not just hearing the words, but what was the strategy? What was Martin Luther King actually trying to do? How was he building peace on the ground? And I don’t think Wallace was ready for me either because I just walked out of his office. I went outside, I sat under a tree, I read the book cover to cover. At about four o’clock in the afternoon, I knocked back on his door and said, okay, this is it. I’m absolutely in. I had no idea but at that point, what that even meant that I was in, but it ended up being trained as a mediator. It ended up thinking about large ethnic and religious group conflict that ended up with a stent, working with Incore in the United Nations in Northern Ireland and then ultimately, to the Middle East. And along the way, learning from people that were on the ground that were actually mediating these things, thinking about theory, especially around again, religious and ethnic group conflict, and then ultimately back to BYU Hawaii in 2005 to create the first peacebuilding program on the ground there that was really a combination again, of this sort of academic work of thinking about what causes conflict at both the interpersonal and large group level, as well as what techniques can we actually employ. And that was a big thing for me is that I wanted our students to have a skill set to go back to their home countries to actually not just be able to think about it and write about it, but to do something about it as well. And I think it’s a really cool opportunity. The world needs more peace builders, for sure. But I also think actually, the world needs more LDS peace builders, because I think we have a unique theology, I think there are things about our faith that can contribute to the conversation about what it what it means to think about and talk about peace and Patrick Mason and David Pulsipher, in their book Proclaim Peace have done a wonderful job of laying out I think, that sort of theological landscape. I’m a kindred spirit with them. But now more on the practical side of then, okay, what does that look like in the ground and our families, our wards, our stakes, our communities in the world?

     

    Joseph Stuart: Thanks for that introduction. And I absolutely want to recommend the podcast episode that we did with Dr. Pulsipher and Dr. Mason, as well as their book Proclaim Peace: The Restoration’s Answer to an Age of Conflict. I’d like to jump into your book now that we’re discussing. It’s entitled Dangerous Love: Transforming Fear and Conflict at Home, at Work and in the World. And as I was reading, I was really struck by this quote in thinking about why it’s hard to love. “Fear of conflict plagues our personal, professional, and societal relationships. Fear of conflict itself, fear of the people we are in conflict with, fear of pain, fear of not being loved, or seeing the way we want to be seen, fear that we are woefully unprepared and ill equipped to handle the problems that beset us. But then you say that love is the answer to those fears.” What do you mean by that?

     

    Chad Ford: In my experience as a mediator first of all, I will start with a pragmatic and we can maybe get the theoretical and theological, the thing that I’ve noticed the most I’ve mediated now thousands of cases, is that people come in with such a fear of what’s happened so far. And there’s two types of fear. There’s a fear of conflict in general, right? Conflict is bad. Sometimes it’s something that I witnessed growing up. Sometimes it’s an ideological belief or even a theology belief, right? Contention is of the devil for example. And so I’m feeling this huge weight that I’m in a conflict and conflict is going to destroy me or destroy us. And so the level of fear is high. And then on top of that whatever my interactions were, or if the conflict has gone wrong, and usually by the time they’re in my office or when I’m with them, that’s what’s happened. Not all conflict turns destructive. But usually when I’m involved, it has turned destructive. It’s metastasized to a certain extent. Now, everything that I’m doing is going wrong. And I’m trying to get this other person to change so that the conflict will go away. But that but they won’t change. And when human beings are experiencing fear, there’s some really predictable psychological responses that we have to that. And most people know this from a basic psychology class, the fight or flight response. And so when I’m experiencing fear, my brain shuts down, I go into survival mode, I go into sort of a self preservation mode if you will. And my response is to get away from it if I can. And then if I can’t get away from it, if I’m trapped in some ways, now I’ve got to fight my way out. And both of those instincts actually pour gasoline on the conflict. Neither of them are actually helpful, even though at the time most people think they’re doing their best that they can to make it better. And so when we talk about conflict transformation, reconciliation, like all problem solving and collaboration and all of those things that peacebuilding talks about, it’s really difficult to get there, if I’m experiencing fear. And so fear has to be replaced by something. And that’s where I talk about love and dangerous love, which is the type of vulnerability, the type of love that is not romantic love. We’re not talking about Eros here. Nor is it the type of love like Philia in the Greek which is a like, like I love chocolate or I love pizza or I love my dog. You know, I love my friends. But the sort of love that is more akin to the word agape in the scriptures, which is this sort of selfless love, this love that loves for the sake of loving. “It seeketh if not its own” and trying to cultivate that love in the parties so that they can put aside their fear and actually get the very difficult work of working through the conflict in a way that’s collaborative, that’s going to be sustainable. And this to me is at the heart of all the work that we do in conflict transformation is moving from fear to love and the book Dangerous Love is really about how to walk through that process. I tried to be a mediator for the reader and walk them through the same steps that I would if you were in my office to help you be able to collaboratively solve your own problems.

     

    Joseph Stuart: “Agape” is the Greek word that is used to describe Christ’s love for us, to describe the Father’s love for us in the New Testament. And it makes me think about Christ’s eternal perspective and internal mission, whereas our fight or flight response is about the immediate. It’s about survival now, not about salvation or thinking about the long term.

     

    Chad Ford: It is. And you know, it’s so interesting. There’s such a debate when we think about God and love, and all of the different ways that we use that term in English, right? We have one word that means a lot of different things. If we’re in Sanskrit, there’s like over 100 words for love. And so it’s partly a limitation of the English language. Interestingly, that holds us back and like we just talked about Greek, Greek uses multiple words. And some languages even go deeper on that. I think that that’s where a lot of the hang up gets to because we equate sometimes love with condoning or liking or what have you, instead of the love that is the selfless love that says, I love you even if you’re doing something wrong, I still love you. And I’m committed to you. And I’m going to work through it with you. And so one of the terms I love again, because I’m in Hawaii is the term “Aloha”. And most people when they hear that word, they’re like, oh, that’s the greeting. And then you get a lei and you kiss on the cheek and you know what you see in the movies. But originally for the Kanaka Maoli, or the indigenous Hawaiians, aloha is actually two words: Alo and Ha, and Ha is the breath of life. It is our spirit. It’s what animates us, right? The word Ha is and really in a lot of Pacific Islander languages there’s an equivalent of the Ha. So that’s what motivates us. And the Alo is the sharing of the Ha. When a native Hawaiian would greet each other, they would actually touch their foreheads together and then they would breathe in the Ha, they would breathe in the Spirit. And then you would say aloha. And when you said it, it was first acknowledgement. I recognize and see the humanity. I’m in you. I’m receiving your ha right now. And part of the receiving is now I have an obligation, my obligation and receiving is I’m going to help you along your life journey. And so when I say it, it’s actually a sacred covenant with someone that says, I see you, I see your humanity and now I’m going to help you along the way. There’s another term that some people know in Hawaiian, they’ve heard this term before, haole. And haole usually says this refers to white people. It refers to people that are not indigenous Hawaiian, but that you notice the word Ha is at the start and then ole is without. And when Westerners came to Hawaii, they didn’t touch their foreheads. They didn’t breathe in the HA. There wasn’t this sort of commitment the same way. They actually stuck out their hands at a distance and shook the hand. And it was a much more transactional sort of relationship. And then the term came probably without the Ha. They don’t share the Ha in the same ways. It doesn’t necessarily mean white person, it means someone that is not committed to the same sort of covenantal relationship. And I think about that a lot when I think about when we’re talking about this sort of idea and an atonement and in God’s love this sort of deep recognition that Christ had. I think this was one of the many things that Christ was so amazing at in the New Testament, he immediately recognized the Ha in a human being. It didn’t matter what you were doing or how the rest of society saw you, he recognized the Ha. People could feel that he recognized it and that connection that was there. And then this sort of covenantal relationship, I’m here to help you along your life journey. That is my commitment back to you all the way to Gethsemane and the bleeding from every pore. This is God’s love in a certain way. And I think the scriptures are just sort of replete then with Jesus being the master peace builder, the master conflict resolution expert, the master at helping people turn their hearts from fear to love.

     

    Joseph Stuart: One of the first stories that you share in Dangerous Love: Transforming Fear and Conflict at Home, at Work and in the World is the story of Mariam who’s working in the Middle East. Could you tell us about her and her conflict?

     

    Chad Ford: You know, I started the book with Marian because it was just such a classic example of what we’re going through. So she was starting a nonprofit in a Middle Eastern country. She was young, she had a group of people and they were women trying to start a sport program in the Middle East for women, which if you know anything about the Middle East that’s a bit of a challenge. She’d gotten some funding. She’d got some grants she got put together. The reason she was with me is she basically got some funding to come out and do some conflict resolution training and what have you. And as she was describing her dilemma, it was classic. We started this nonprofit. There’s only one gym in our community. The person who owns the gym is a man, the person doesn’t believe that women should be playing sports. And so we have this nonprofit around sport, but the only real place in the community to go do the sport is being blocked to us by this sexist old fashioned seep in stereotype man. And they’re really frustrated, they’re stuck. And you could just see in her the disdain that she had for him, the sense of contempt that she had for his way of thinking and what have you. So of course, I asked her, what do you do, Miriam? What’s your response? Well, we went and asked. He said no, then we protested, we picketed, that didn’t get anything. We’ve tried to dislodge him from the gym. That didn’t help, we’re stuck. This conflict isn’t going to change until he changes. And the story really was then about thinking about what the key principles of dangerous love are. Like okay, letting go of our fear of conflict or fear of the person that’s in conflict, then thinking about how we practice inside-outside transformation. What can I do, instead of what can he do. We already know what he can do, but he’s not willing to do it. So what can I do to change the dynamic of this conflict in a way that is ultimately going to be invitational towards the other person. And the key point for Miriam is, as the story lays out, is not just in the doing, it’s in the seeing. And so there’s lots of techniques that we could do. And I get asked this question all the time by parents, by church leaders, whatever, like just give me the steps. And the steps are real and they’re important, but none of the steps are actually very effective until I see the Ha, until I really see the humanity of the person that I’m in conflict with, until I love my enemy. And that love is not just being like my enemy, or romantic attraction, but I see my enemies needs, wants, desires, and fears as valid and equal to my own. And I’m willing to pursue a course that is helpful, both to myself and to them. And then we talked about this concept turn first. And how Miriam has to do certain things to invite that space, and then ultimately getting to collaborative problem solving. That story lays out in the first really the key steps to dangerous love and at least tells the success story, the beginning of how ultimately Merriam is able to be able to use the gym.

     

    Joseph Stuart: I’m thinking about how Martin Luther King always centered love in his nonviolent response. It wasn’t about having power in the relationship, it was about turning oneself towards one’s enemy. And as you say, seeing the Ha, seeing the humanity. So in the book, you have two people who are back to back, their elbows are touching. So they’re touching each other, but they’re not actually seeing each other. One person has to turn first towards the other person. Where did you discover that imagery or what helped you to think about that?

     

    Chad Ford: I think a couple of things. Another two fundamental books, Strength to Love by Martin Luther King really was a series of sermons that he gave primarily to African American congregations about how they go about nonviolent resistance. And as you pointed out, it wasn’t just techniques, though those techniques are powerful, but how I am seeing the person while I am doing the technique and so much of his book is having the strength to love your enemy. That’s the title of the book.

     

    Joseph Stuart: And thinking about the quote that’s often shared on Martin Luther King Day without context, but that “you must love because hate is too great a burden to bear”. Sometimes we flatten that by not saying that it’s part of not only this high theological idea, but also in every action he is encouraging others to see the other person as a child of God.

     

    Chad Ford: Exactly. And Inyo King is obviously theologically driven by a lot of this as well. He’s reading Jesus and Howard Thurman’s reading of Jesus which is, you know, Jesus of the Disinherited, just one of the great books of all time. And he’s also thinking about Gandhi and what Gandhi is doing and Gandhi’s reading of Christianity as well. And so Gandhi sees turn the other cheek as actually not passive, which I think a lot of times people see as passive, but is a powerful invitation to invite to see an enemy as a person and to actually invite them to see you back. So when someone slaps you out of anger, they’ve probably dehumanized you. They’re seeing you as an object, not as a person. They’ve gotten so frustrated, and they’ve run out of other collaborative problem solving ideas to the point that they’re striking you now. I’m going to force you into submission, I’m going to hurt you till you give up and I get what I want. And the natural human reaction to all of that is to return the blow. Right? You’ve hit me now I have justification to return that blow. So when Jesus says turn the other cheek, it’s brilliant theologically, but it’s also brilliant strategically, and this is what Gandhi was thinking about. Because now I’m taking away all the justification for my enemy now saying, I see you I see you’re hurting. I see you’re frustrated right now. And you know what, instead of striking you back or retaliating. I’m actually going to give you the other cheek to hit me again if you need to get out of your system. And Gandhi knew that human reaction to that was that the second blow would be much, much harder to strike than the first blow. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s an actual sign of strength to your enemy, right? I am not going to succumb to hate. I’m not going to get in the mud with you right now. I’m actually going to give you space to get this out. Because ultimately what I care about is not me, but us. And what’s that way forward. And so King is teaching in his congregation, because it’s going to be literal, it’s not going to be metaphorical. Like people are going to strike you, they’re going to sick dogs on you, they’re going to put you in prison, they’re going to take their cigarettes and put them out on your skin. And if you retaliate, you cannot see these folks with love on this journey that we’re on, the Civil Rights journey, is going to fail because of the power dynamics involved. But if we can muster that sort of love, it becomes harder for our enemies. And this was important to King to that the television cameras are running for the people that are watching at home to justify our hatred or discrimination towards African Americans anymore. We will win them over with love and King referred to it as a double victory because the victory isn’t just for us and getting our rights or whatever. But it releases white people from their hate. It releases them from participating in an unjust system and gives them space to reconnect with each other in love. And so that’s the sort of foundational idea around turn first and then I was also deeply influenced by the Harbinger Institute, the work of Harry Warner an LDS philosopher, who really starts at Oxford, but does a lot of his work at BYU writing The Bonds That Make Us Free and then The Anatomy of Peace. And they’re thinking about how we move from seeing people as objects to seeing people as people. And this concept of turn first. The elbowing thing actually, believe it or not, this is the great thing of working in a classroom was students workshopping how to teach this in peace education. And it was so brilliant as a human metaphor, right? Like we’re standing back to back and we’re elbowing each other. And you ask the group, what is this picture of? They’ll say it’s your conflict. And what do you notice? Well, two things, you can’t see each other, you’re back to back. So you’re not physically seeing each other, but you’re elbowing each other so you can feel each other. And then what comes out of that is at some point, both sides are saying why is this other person elbowing me? Why don’t they stop elbowing me while I continue to elbow? And why are they elbowing me harder? And I gotta push back harder. And this is the most common reaction I get as a mediator is that people will say well, if you would stop then I will stop. If you will do this first, then I’ll do this first. This is outside/inside transformation, you change and then I change. And that’s what’s going to build trust and make that change, for me feel safe is that you’re going to change first, of course, Both parties generally feel like it’s the other person’s duty to change. It’s their job to go first. Even though sometimes it’s clear from an outsider that there was an instigator and a victim, the instigator feels so justified in their actions in a lot of different ways that they no longer feel that way. Even though they may be the aggressor in a conflict, they feel like they’re the actual victim of the conflict. And so both people are looking at me and say, I’ll change when the other person changes course, then nothing changes. And so so much of my work as a mediator is about inviting them into that vulnerable space in something that Miroslav Volf calls “the fear of embrace with my enemy”, who is the first one that’s going to be willing to jump into this space of unknown because I can’t actually predict what you’re going to do. I can’t guarantee even when I do it out of pure love, you may not be in that space yet. You may strike me, you may take advantage of me, you may reject me, and all of that stuff is really scary for human beings. But without it without the embrace, we don’t have peace. And so who’s going to be the first person to open up their arms instead of putting down their fists, and opening up their arms, and inviting the other person into that space. And so turn first is that visual image of that person turning towards the other person. I’ll just say one more thing about it because it’s really fascinating. Usually, when I grabbed people from the audience to do this, we just did something recently at BYU Law School and their law leadership, and that was up at USU with Patrick Mason, the first instinct from somebody if your back to back is to move and get in front of the person and be face to face with the person. That’s normally how people think when I tell one person, okay, you try to turn first. Where would that look like? Where would you move in the room? Instead of just turning around, they try to get in front of the person because that makes sense. Right? Now we’re seeing each other, right? It’s the opposite of not seeing each other. They just move that human diagram to its opposite conclusion. And usually, I’m the other person up there. So I’ll just turn away and they’ll get frustrated and we’ll start going in a circle together and then sometimes we’ll get so frustrated they’ll grab me and I’ll just close my eyes and you know, people will start laughing and what have you, but there’s also some confusion in the room. Like why didn’t that work? I thought you said turning first is going to work. We have to unpack that a little bit because I still think that’s outside/inside transformation. The thinking still is really about getting in front of the person, is them seeing me not me seeing you because I can see you from the back and I have to look you eye to eye. I can see you in a lot of different things. It’s about you seeing me in the hope that if you see me, you’ll change and then the conflict will go away. And so after we get done, we asked him to do it again. And usually what people do is they’ll just turn around and they’ll be staring out my back. And then I’m the one there. And I have the same experience every time. It’s awkward when someone’s staring at you and you can’t see them right. And I’ll ask the audience what’s happening? Well, they’re just staring at you. And the magnetic pull and almost to turn and want to see the other person is just powerful, even in that setting. And so that’s the idea. I don’t have anybody to resist anymore. I’m not resisting. They’re not resisting my humanity anymore. I’m punching the wind and punching the wind is exhausting. It’s not actually very fulfilling, and it becomes a powerful invitation to turn.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Thanks for that powerful example. It also brings into mind Martin Buber, the German philosopher who you bring in, in Dangerous Love, in creating an “I thou” or an “I it” relationship, whereas our relationship with God should be “I thou”, whereas we see him as someone that we can be communing with. But you turn it into we should always see the people that we are engaged with in an “I thou” relationship as equals, as people with equal points of view equal humanity, rather than I am the one in the right, you are an object upon which I need to draw out your ability to conform to my idea of what your humanity should be. How do we develop a worldview where we can see those that we come in contact with in an “I thou” relationship rather than an “I it” relationship? Because it seems to me that we come into contact with people all the time who have more power or more incentive to do things than we can give to them. So how do we create a mindset where we are trying to not only help ourselves, but help those around us to get into the mindset of helping one another?

     

    Chad Ford: There’s a philosophical answer to Buber and what Buber is really about and Buber was a philosopher, but also a Jewish rabbi at the time and he was really thinking about encounter as well. And so the hyphen was really important in Buber’s “I it” and “I thou”, right? The idea that I’m never just me. I’m always me in connection to someone else. And so I can never be myself without being thinking about myself in connection with someone else. And even the words that I use to describe me, I got from other places from other people. And so there’s, there’s no such thing as “I” to Buber. There’s always I hyphen, right? It’s always I-you, and you can be an it or you can be a you. Or sometimes the translation, it’s tricky, it’s in German is thou which is a more formal phrase, and at least in LDS culture, we only use the thou with deity. We don’t even talk about President Nelson as being a thou or Joseph Smith. Those aren’t thous. We don’t refer to them as thou. But we do refer to deity that way. And part of this was something formative for me as a young person. My family joined the church when I was very young, but also left the church when I was still actually quite young. And so I grew up in my teenage years searching, and not actually knowing much about the LDS faith or really any faith but searching for something spiritually. And when I met missionaries when I was a teenager and they came over and taught me this concept in this primary song that I am a child of God and the literal way that the LDS worldview actually thinks about that. The fact that we go around in church referring to each other as brothers and sisters, and then you know, deeper theology of that, that was something that deeply resonated with me. And so when we think about well, how can we go about seeing the people in our life, especially our enemies as thous, the first thing I’d say is because they literally are. Every person regardless of their choices that they’re making in this life, how sinful or not sinful they are, they are divine. They are deeply loved by God. The Atonement is for them just like it is for me. And this is the great leveling to me. In ways that I often think we get it so wrong in our culture, of these hierarchies of value of human beings and who’s better or whatever, one of the things the atonement teaches me is that without Christ I can’t return it to the Father. Regardless of how good I am, all of us are dependent on the same Messiah to do this thing. That’s what actually connects us together. And our theology is actually one of the things that I think is actually really helpful in helping me see the thou in you that we made premortal existence— we made similar choices to get here. We have similar eternal goals. We’re struggling along this sort of mortal path to get there and our choices hold us back from these things and we need each other and we need love and the Savior and all of those things. Seeing someone has an it is a fundamental lie that we tell ourselves about other people that they don’t count the same or because of the mistakes they made, or things that they’ve said to me or done, that somehow they are no longer worthy of love, that they’re no longer worthy of outreach or whatever. And if I can get to that, if I can see the Ha, it opens up creativity and space or reconnection even when that connection has been shut down. And I know the normal reaction to this is, let me tell you all the people in my life that I wish would see me that way. And that’s just true. We all are carrying around the pain of people that we wish would really see us that way. So much of the pain that I deal with in conflict is because someone is deeply seeing them as an object and how hurtful that has been to their life, their identity, their peace, their happiness. But I’ve also found,  I can’t force you to see that in me. There’s nothing that I can do to force you. But the better I am at seeing it in you, even when you can’t see it in me, the more powerful that invitation is. That is when the spirit really starts to grow in ways that make it very difficult for people to quit not seeing it in me. And so this idea of the more that I see the thou in you, the more that my thou shines in a way that allows other people to see me is often counterintuitive of what we think about in conflict.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Thinking about people in my life who have created those types of relationships, and it is always a joyous experience to talk to people about who are the people who believed in you first? Who were the people who helped you to see what you can do? So for you, it might be Wallace and Wallace. But it’s just so crucial to be the type of person that can get the best out of people without trying to force the goodness out of people.

     

    Chad Ford: And this is something that Jesus is amazing at, absolutely brilliant at it. But it’s so hard for us to do it. And that’s part of the thing that’s so cool about Jesus is that it’s aspirational for us to be like him or even as I am. And it’s hard, it’s a hard journey to get there. But it’s one of the things that I’m absolutely convinced that Jesus is so powerful at seeing the thou, seeing you so clearly, seeing you as the father sees you that despite your weaknesses and your mistakes and your sins and everything else, this divinity that’s within you and I’m going to draw it out, and I’m going to draw it out, I’m going to love conquer sin instead of fear trying to conquer sin.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Thank you for sharing that. I think it’s always important to remember trying to be like Jesus isn’t just a singular event. It’s great to be able to say yeah, I was like Jesus last Tuesday. It’s one thing to be like Jesus for your entire life or to do your best to be that way. In the last chapter of your book, you show how this dangerous love isn’t just an individual event, but a lifelong pursuit, but that you show that it also isn’t always linear. Could you tell us about your relationship with your dad that you share in the book?

     

    Chad Ford: I have an amazing dad. And when I grew up we were really close. In fact, people looked at us and saw pictures of us as young people and we looked the same. And my dad was a remarkable man who got very, very sick. He had a spinal cerebellar degeneration. His cerebellum in the back of his brain was disintegrating. It’s an extremely rare disease in the 70s and early 80s. When he was diagnosed with it, there was only a handful of people in the country that had it. Very little research had been done. The Mayo Clinic actually took them years to even diagnose it and the Mayo Clinic finally did and unfortunately, there is no cure, there’s no medicine, there was very there was no treatment at the time. He was essentially told by doctors we can kind of tell you what’s going to happen to you. But there’s not really anything we can do about it and that was devastating to my father, just absolutely devastating. He basically had been handed a death sentence that said your cerebellum is going to slowly degenerate in your quality of life is just going to increasingly get worse and worse and worse. You’re going to lose your fine motor skills and lose your ability to speak, eventually you’re going to get double vision, you’re not going to be able to walk, and this will just happen that you know as those things are taken away. In a way that wasn’t very understandable to me as a young child, but is now as an adult, my dad’s reaction was to leave our family. He thought he was going to be a burden on the family. He felt like we were going to do nothing but try dragging down the medical bills. Nobody wanted to take care of him. My dad was very independent and he just left one night. And in a way that was very devastating to me and my mother and my brothers and sisters and what have you. And it was a while before my dad came back into my life. My parents divorced and my dad came back in. And by the time he came back, he was already suffering a lot from the effects of that and actually went to move in with his mother and the reaction was really at first, I’m just stoked that you’re back in my life, man, I really want a Dad. You can’t play baseball with me or do a lot of things, but we found ways to engage and find things that we were both passionate about, and really to connect. And for my dad, the disease got more and more serious. It got more and more painful. One of the things that started happening as he was getting essentially charley horses in his leg uncontrollably at times. There was nothing he could do about it. He was in agony. And when I was in my 20s one night, he called me and said, I just can’t take it anymore. I’ve swallowed a bottle of Tylenol. The pain is too much, you know, can you come be with me? I don’t want to die alone. And I freaked out, I did not agree to do that. I called 911. The fire department showed up at his apartment, axed down his door, pumped his stomach. Luckily for me, he lived but he didn’t see it that way at all. He felt betrayed. He felt like I didn’t allow him to exercise his agency the way that he wanted to. And in the course of the next couple of weeks, when he was in the hospital and talking to doctors and and social workers and different things, they really determined he shouldn’t be living on his own, that he needs to be in a care facility where he can get more frequent care, that this will improve his quality of life and be able to take care of him. But my father fiercely independent, and wanted to do nothing to do with any of that. That’s not what he wanted, that I had the power of attorney at the time. And I made the decision. No Dad, I think this is what’s best for you. To which my dad responded and told me he hated me and refused to talk to me for a significant period of time. And my first reaction to that was, you’ll get over it. You’ll see that this is a better situation. I’m actually doing this out of love, not out of anything else for my Dad. Love’s gonna win here. But my dad’s stubborn. And so am I and I would show up first every day, and then it became every week and then we would just sit around and my dad wouldn’t speak to me or look at me. And eventually I moved and actually went a couple of years without really speaking to my father. And in the meantime, I became quite bitter, quite frustrated, angry at him, angry that I had to grow up this way, angry that my dad was angry at me, always trying to explain to people why I was right and he was wrong, you know, all the things that I think are really common in conflict. And one day, I got a call from a nurse that told me that my dad had quit eating. And they wanted to know, what I wanted to do is his power of attorney and I asked what are the options and there are a lot of good options making a human eat is actually one of the more tricky things to do and essentially told me the one thing they could do is, you know, strap him to a baton and put a feeding tube down his throat. That seemed awful to me, as angry as I was with my father that didn’t actually seem fair. So I traveled to see him. And I was so angry by the time that I got there, like they built up inside that I walked up the stairs, I saw my dad and my dad deteriorated significantly to the point that he couldn’t hold his head up anymore physically. Determined, instead of seeing the thou, I saw everything that I was frustrated with as a child, this was the epitome of all of this. I lashed out at my Dad, why are you doing this? This is ridiculous. Why are you hurting yourself? You don’t believe in this stuff, you know, all of these different things that were really, really important in my mind to my dad. And he just refused to look at me. And then finally he spit at me. And I told him okay fine, here’s how it’s gonna go: tomorrow if you haven’t eaten, I am going to go and have them stick a feeding tube down your throat. See how you like that a little bit about that. On my way home to my brother’s house that night, my brother told me their stuff in the basement and my dad, I went down to the basement and I found this picture of my dad. And he was running hurdles as a child. Never see my dad run and let alone jump a hurdle. And it was in a journal that we’d found at the bottom of this box. And I saw my dad with different eyes for the first time in his journal as his health slowly deteriorated, pleading with God to heal him up. I’ll pay more tithing, all getting blessings, like trying all these different things, wanting to be the father that he always wanted to be, wanting to be the husband and just suffering to the point that he felt like he was useless in life. And I saw the thou again, sitting on that floor. I wept for a long time. And it became actually really clear what I needed to do. And so the next day, I went up to the hospital and I knelt down, and my father and I told him, “Look, I’m sorry. I’ve been wrong about all of this. I haven’t seen this through your eyes until now. And though I don’t agree with the choices that you want to make right now, they’re yours to make. So if you don’t want to eat, I’m not going to force you to eat. I’m going to stay here by your bedside. I’ll hold your hand until you pass away. I love you. And I’m sorry. And I’m sorry I’ve let this come between us.” And my dad didn’t say anything for a minute. It seemed like an eternity. They start calling for the nurse, I started to panic, he’s gonna have me thrown out now like, I’m done. My dad’s gonna get ultimate vengeance now. When the nurse came, he looked at the nurse and said please bring me a cheeseburger and to which I responded don’t bring the cheeseburger, he needs a steak. This thing had turned. And the interesting thing was for me, it didn’t turn until I saw him. First of all, like I saw his humanity, I saw him as a thou. And then until I had the courage to turn first and do something that was actually really hard, which is that I’m going to honor your space while still trying to honor mine and my values, but I’m not I’m going to try to honor and hold both of those things together in a way that helps us see our way through this conflict.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Thank you. That’s a really vulnerable story to share. As time goes on, unfortunately, because of his condition and because of old age, he ultimately develops pneumonia and you’re able to give him a blessing before he passes away. What do you remember from that experience?

    Chad Ford: When I got the word, I was in Hawaii, starting BYU Hawaii, the doctors were like, I don’t think you’re gonna get here in time. And so I panicked, that’s a long flight from Hawaii to Kansas City. My heart beat out of my chest. Running the same stairs that I did in anger, just in love towards my father, running towards my father’s side and so relieved actually, when I got there that he was still breathing. But he was gurgling his lungs were filled with fluid and, and I whispered down to my dad, I’m here. And my dad, the only ways my dad can do it is, “What took you so long?” Right? And then an amazing thing happened. He didn’t die for like the next 48 hours. The doctors come in and say he’s barely able to breathe. We don’t know what’s happening. And then one of the doctors has told me like, sometimes we see this like now my dad really wants to die. Like he’s actually kind of this is mercy, this is grace from God right now. And my brother and sister cleared out for a little bit. We’re all sort of waiting there. And my dad woke up, he was mostly sleeping most of this time and, and whispered in my ear, “Blessing.” And I asked him, “Do you want a blessing?” And you said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Dad, why? What’s going on? Like, this is what you’ve wanted for such a long time? Why are you fighting this?” And he told me he was afraid. And I said, “What are you afraid of Dad? You believe in Christ. You have this testimony.” And he said, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. And I’ve blown a lot of things. And I’m afraid when I get to the other side, Heavenly Father’s going to be disappointed with me. And now that that’s getting really close, I’m afraid. So can you give me a blessing.” And I said, “Yeah,” and I laid my hands on his head. And it was the single most transformative moment of my life. I don’t know really, the words describe it. I tried to write them in the book. But I just felt this power of love surging through my body coming out of me towards him. I remember remarking, before I said anything I didn’t know. I had never felt love like this before. And I don’t remember the exact words of the blessing. But they were pretty simple. Like, “He loves you. He’s waiting for you. It’s time to come home. It’s okay. He loves you more than you would ever, ever possibly know.” I took my hands off his head. And about 15 minutes later, my father took his last breath. And on his last breath, one tear rolled down his eye, and he smiled. And he was gone. And you know, I walked away from that experience with an even deeper conviction of a life after this life. But even more than that, a love that I’ve talked about, and I’d read about, and I’d heard about, and I felt at various points in my life, but never with the power that I felt it before. And I remember saying to myself, this is the love that can change the world. This was the love that God introduced into the world through his Son. And somehow I have to figure out how to help other people still feel this way.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Thank you for sharing that. In addition to the book, Dangerous Love: Transforming Fear and Conflict at Home, at Work, and in the World, you are actually working on a book for the Maxwell Institute’s Living Faith series entitled Seventy Times Seven: Christ’s Path to Conflict Transformation at Home and in the World. Could you tell us a little bit about that project?

     

    Chad Ford: Yeah, it came together in part because of an LDS reaction to Dangerous Love. We were talking a little bit about it. And you said it was a very LDS book, I think is the term that you used and it wasn’t really meant to be. But when I saw the reaction to it, I also often had people asking, you know, theological questions, where does this come from? Or can you point to scriptures or whatever and to me, almost all of it resides in Christ and the work that he’s doing in the New Testament right there. But certainly, there’s other powerful scriptures in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants as well that point there. And so I’ve actually been asked by the Liahona to write an article for the Liahona that recently came out about Jacob and Esau and how this applies to Dangerous Love. They’ve read Dangerous Love and had asked me to write something about conflict. And as I was writing it, I ended up writing like 10 times as much as they needed. There was just so much that came really pouring out of me and Spencer Fluhman is the director of the Maxwell Institute and I are planning a conference in Hawaii around Proclaim Peace in June with Patrick Mason and David Pulsipher. And we were talking about, okay, this book Proclaim Peace really lays out the theological landscape for people in a way that I think is really, really powerful and convincing. Is there essentially a companion volume that says, okay and this is what it looks like in real world life with our families and our wards, in our communities, in the world and can I take those experiences as a mediator connect them to the stories of Christ’s life and what’s happening and actually show away for anybody who’s really struggling, whether it’s with a spouse, or a child, or a community member, or in a larger socio-political context, Christ’s way through this through the power of love, and so Seventy Times Seven was the idea that came to my head, because it’s actually a perfect distillation of the principles of dangerous love, right? I have to let go of our fear. What if I’m gonna allow someone to continue to smite me on the cheek, it’s proactive. It’s turning first, right? It’s offering something to my enemies, that running away from my enemy or fighting towards my enemy, it’s turning towards them and love. It’s actually inviting them to put down their arms and engage in collaborative problem solving with me instead of violence as the way I missed the way forward. And it’s powerful inside outside transformation. It’s a powerful response to I’m not going to change the other person by trying to force them to change. I’m going to invite them to change by changing how I see and impact them. Where a lot of people see it as passive in the scriptures, I see it as actually one of the most powerful moves that can possibly be done in humanity. And I’m gonna bring in how that’s been used in how people have used Christ throughout history with both Gandhi and the Civil Rights movement, whether people have been actually thinking about this. The Mennonites, the Quakers, and others who have really been trying to think about Jesus as peacemaker and how we can directly apply this to our lives. And so that’s the book. I’m loving writing it. I’m in the midst of it right now. But hopefully in 2023, you’ll see it.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Well marvelous. I for one can’t wait to read it. Professor Ford. At the end of every episode, we ask following Doctrine and Covenants 88, for our guests to recommend three books to our audience, three of your best books. Could you share those with us?

     

    Chad Ford: I mentioned two already in the podcast, but Strength to Love by Martin Luther King has been foundational. I think this is the Christian framework for thinking about peace especially in a larger socio-political context. It’s been deeply informative for me and Strength to Love was in part, the key for the title of my book Dangerous Love and thinking through it that way. Proclaim Peace, we talked about Patrick Mason and David Pulsipher. I think if you’re a Latter-day Saint, and you’re interested in what our theology is actually saying about these issues, they primarily take up the issues of violence and war and peace at a large scale. That’s the primary thinking. But I think there’s much to intuit from it, and especially in the last chapters about what it means in a practical sense for us as well. So if you’re a Latter-day Saint, I think about that. And then if you want a really cool case study in peacebuilding, there’s a lot of great ones, but Leymah Gbowee’s book on Mighty Be Our Powers, she wins the Nobel Peace Prize in Liberia leading a people to people movement to end war in her country. She’s Christian, she has a way of sort of thinking about this. This is one of the most powerful testaments to Christian peace building that I can think of. There’s also a great documentary on the same thing, which is Pray the Devil Back to Hell. And so if you’re not a reader, and you want to watch the documentary, it’s there as well. But those three books I think, are a great primer, hopefully for what will come in Seventy Times Seven down the road.

     

    Joseph Stuart: Chad Ford, thanks for visiting with us on the Maxwell Institute Podcast.

     

    Chad Ford: Thank you, Aloha.