Open Bar: Mediation discards the troubled past in favor of a brighter future (column)
The freshness, the rawness, the obliviousness of youth protects our younger selves from the paralysis of reflection. There is simply not enough past on which to dwell, and the limitless possibilities unspooling each day are more than enough to keep a kid occupied.
Spritely as I may seem and feel, the gray hairs are beginning to creep in slowly and, with them, the stock taking that plagues a putative adult. This requires a tour through my personal history: the choices, the foibles, the happenstances that brought me to this time, this place, with these people. I am lucky that I am thrilled to be in this spot, but even were I not, that past is simply irrelevant to how my life unfolds from here.
This is not because those 36 years are useless, that the events that transpired within them do not have deep meaning for me. It is just that my past is immutable; dwelling on how I may have done things differently will do me no functional good.
I can give glancing study as a guidepost to how to avoid certain pitfalls, sure enough. But, given the capricious nature of life, I only have so much control. I believe it a better use of my mental resources to plot, to dream, to adventure with the time that I have in front of me. I do not want to be a self-historian, gathering dust as I sift through the tomes of my heretofore existence.
It is no secret that I believe the process of mediation to be far superior to that of litigation. Given my views of the utility of the past, this makes perfect sense. A lawsuit, by its very nature, evaluates past actions and then crafts a remedy to address an adjudicated wrongdoing that may or may not actually be wrong. Other than lip service as to deterrence, it has little positive effect on future actions, feelings or relationships. Indeed, the damage caused by the litigation process itself, for victor and vanquished, can have long-lasting negative impacts.
Mediation recognizes the flawed nature of humanity, acknowledges that mistakes can be made on all sides of a dispute. From this threshold, the troubled past is discarded in favor of exerting all energies, in concentrating all efforts on the difficult business of creating a brighter, friendlier, happier future for its participants. What happened before is relevant only insomuch as it creates a narrative pathway for solutions.
When a mediating party cannot let go of the past, is stuck in a vortex of blame, anger and retribution, it makes the process extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible. But, because mediation is, if nothing else, a catharsis, it provides an amazing venue to process the past and then burn it as readily as kindling.
Those reluctant to forgive past transgressions are not lost causes for the mediator. They may be challenging, but they are also opportunities. Perhaps the best part of being a mediator is revealing to the skeptic a vision of the future in which he/she can find peace.
Allowing the future to be your focus means that each day is a fresh start, a new opportunity to do better, a clean slate. Let’s do our society and ourselves a massive favor and embark upon a tomorrow devoid of the weight of yesterday.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.