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Bridge of trust can help heal discord

Paul Graves

Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,

As we continue on this long journey into St. Francis’ Prayer of Peace, I invite you on a little detour. There is another version of the prayer that is also good to pray. It is used by the Alcoholics Anonymous organization, in the “11th Step” of their 12-Step program of recovery.

It was also used by Mother Teresa, the wonderful Catholic nun who created a ministry to the poor people living on the streets of Kolkata, India. (I’m sure she will be a saint someday soon.) The part of that prayer I want us to think about today says this: “That where there is discord, I may bring harmony, That where there is error, I may bring truth.”

“Discord” means disagreement. You three have disagreements with each other all the time. They don’t mean much beyond getting your feelings hurt in that moment. But there is usually someone – maybe your mommy or daddy – who tries to bring “harmony” to your relationship.

That harmony, or agreement, is started when one of you apologizes to the other person, then the other person also says “I’m sorry” and you get back to loving each other again. In some relationships, though, the discord can’t be smoothed over with a simple “I’m sorry.” Sometimes, agreements take a lot more work.

I think this is where today’s second prayer step can help: “That where there is error, I may bring truth.” Think about your most recent scrap with your sister (or brother).

Did it maybe happen when you assumed your sibling did something wrong to you? Then maybe your parent or your other sibling said, “No, that isn’t the way it happened. This is what happened.” The fight/disagreement started because of an error, a false assumption.

When the truth was told, the reason for fighting was (at least mostly) taken away.

That’s usually the case in most of the disagreements we have with people, kids. Someone makes a wrong assumption, and gets angry about what he mistakes for the truth. When the real truth is discovered, he and the person he accused can start over, if they choose to. They can begin to heal their friendship.

I know – and you know – that sometimes people don’t seem to want to learn what the “real truth” is. For some reason, they just want to be mad at someone about something. I think everyone feels that way at times (even your grampa).

But when we are willing to admit that we are wrong about something, a wonderful thing can happen. We can discover that it is much more enjoyable to be in “harmony” with the person we disagreed with. That harmony, agreement, isn’t all there is to peace, kids. But it is an important step toward creating peace between people.

In fact, none of the many steps in the peace prayer will, by themselves, create the peace spoken of in the prayer. But when we work on each of these steps – over and over and over – they get us closer to the time when we have done what we can to build a bridge of trust and love between us and other person.

I believe we can meet on that bridge, and humbly talk about our discords (disagreements) with one other. Then we can walk together toward a deeper kind of peace.

Likewise when we can meet on that bridge and (again humbly) admit our version of “the truth” contains some error, we can continue that walk together toward a deeper kind of peace.

Love, Grampa

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is the founder of Elder Advocates. He can be contacted at This year, his column is written as a series of letters to his grandchildren about St. Francis’ Prayer of Peace.
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