Kraybill, Ron. "The Cycle of Reconciliation"

Conciliation Quarterly, 14:3 (Summer 1995) pp. 7-8.

Summary by Mariya Yevsyukova

Copyright 1997 by the Conflict Research Consortium


Ron Kraybill describes his theory of the reconciliation cycle. The theory is based on Ron's experience in South Africa. He feels that people in South Africa have a mistaken image of the process of reconciliation, thinking of it as a process that erases the past. Kraybill's theory suggests that reconciliation is a long-lasting process that goes through several stages. The first stage is relationship. A big part of relationships is taking risks by sharing with another person. Risk-taking creates trust. However, sometimes this trust gives way to an injury when the response to sharing is betrayal. This occurs when one of the parties gets hurt by another. The consequence is usually the physical or emotional withdrawal of the injured party. Withdrawing allows the victim to evaluate the event and his or her feelings about it and the opponent. If not enough time is taken to do this, but rather a quick apology is made and accepted, the result may be forgiveness without reconciliation. In this case distrust will remain, and the relationship will never be the same.

The next step on the way to true reconciliation is reclaiming identity. As one result of an injury, the victim often loses self-esteem, and a group might lose its belief in its uniqueness and strength. Identity is reclaimed by the process of self-awareness and self-affirmation: a person acknowledges one's feelings of frustration and pain, and gains self-respect. Groups undergo the same process, which the author calls "conscientization." Following identity reclaiming is internal commitment to reconciliation and restoration of risk. Restoration of trust will occur only after parties again begin to take risks in sharing with each other. Finally, in order to overcome blame and guilt and return to normal relationships, there should be negotiations between the parties to address the needs created by the injury.

Lasting relationships develop in cycles. In which injuries and disappointments are a natural part. Thus reconciliation becomes a recurring process, a cycle that will be repeated over and over again. People should not avoid conflicts and accommodate pain, but constantly work on the relationships, transforming disagreements and disappointments into mutual understanding and self-assertion.