Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Oletha Barnett of Conciliation Services Is Helping To…

Posted on

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Oletha Barnett of Conciliation Services Is Helping To Change Our World

Your identity is not your career as a lawyer or how big your house, car, or material goods are. When you meet a new person, one of the first questions they ask is “What do you do” — as though what you do identifies who you are. It does not. Who you are is what is inside you, not outside trappings. My true identity is in Jesus Christ. For those who do not believe in Christ, their identity is also not in things or positions. Take away the material goods and career, and you will find the real identity.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Oletha Barnett.

Oletha Barnett is a theologian, lawyer, and conflict resolution specialist who has directed the conflict resolution ministry at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, TX for decades. She was commissioned by the Elder Board for conflict resolution work. She is also an adjunct professor at Southern Bible Institute & College, and founder of Conciliation Services LLC, which provides services to churches, other organizations, and individuals.

She serves on the Board of Peacemaker Ministries, is a Certified Christian Conciliator™, Certified Management Specialist, Certified in Christian Prevention Relationship Enhancement, and Certified Human Behavior Consultant. She holds a BS in Mathematics, Juris Doctor, and Master of Arts in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thank you for interviewing me. My childhood back story centered around family, fellowship, love, and God. I grew up part of my childhood on a 160-acre farm, where my dad worked hard and my mom seemed to can vegetables all summer long for the winter. Mom seemed to cook constantly, but I suppose it could not be otherwise with ten children. Whereas most people got their vegetables from the grocery store, we mostly had ours from those mom canned. We had cows, chickens, a garden, and all that generally goes with farm life. I appreciate that we didn’t have the drama that seemed to occur in big cities. Even now, a smile comes to my face when I think of my dad referring to them as town’s people or city folks.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or change your life? Can you share a story about that?

The book of John in the Bible was the most inspiring book for me. Although I had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ when I was 12, it was much later when someone gave me a standalone book of John that I began to understand life and the world more. I was always an inquisitive, analytical child. The book was so helpful. I gave it to my brother, three years younger than me. He also appreciated it. I see that one incident as God ordering my steps more strongly toward Him. Being in a loving family probably set the incubation for it to happen, but God made Himself real to me at an early age.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

I learned a great life lesson from a mistake, but it was not funny to me. I wrote an e-mail at work and stated that a person had died but did not realize that I left out two critical words “his brother” had died. It quickly went throughout the office that our colleague had died. I was utterly mortified and humiliated to realize the error. Thank God he took it in humor; I did not. That is the most interesting mistake that comes to mind. Life lesson: In this technological age, check everything before submitting it because you can’t take back what you write.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Diversity is the source of much conflict. By diversity, I simply mean differences. My book addresses at least 12 differences that are common to man that often leads to conflict. Though many do not share my belief in God, I believe God created differences for a specific purpose. The theory in my book gives a paradigm shift related to diversity.

One of the book’s principles is “allow for the differences of others.” If we could follow that simple rule, whether we believe in God or not, it could curtail many conflicts. One of the most common differences is personalities. Most are familiar with personality clashes. However, we need different personalities. For example, when hurting, we need a supportive personality. We need a critical personality when wrong, but it should be constructive criticism spoken in a loving, caring manner, not condemnation. Another example would be the direct personality, as in an army general in battle, who needs to be direct and decisive.

The book’s central theme is that learning to manage differences of all kinds can help us broaden our perspectives and grow our character. Rather than making an enemy of those who are different, allow for it and embrace it. My book gives insight into a fresh approach to diversity conflict and how to resolve it. We now live in a hateful, mean society where if you have a different perspective on a matter, the person you differ from becomes the enemy to be destroyed. We see it in politics and throughout the culture. My hope for the book is that it can help toward a kinder, gentler culture, “A Kinder Voice is a Better Choice.” Whether Christian or not, the book is suitable for all; however, I hope to bring diversity into the light of love, not social theory. I plan to be vigilant, take opportunities, and make opportunities as appropriate to spread embracing differences for its benefit. Diversity theory is the belief that

God created human diversity to give us naturally arising opportunities to practice biblical principles to produce Christlike character growth.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

There are several interesting stories, but I believe the most interesting is where I tell of confronting someone who discriminated against me. I was somewhat reluctant but knew I had the responsibility to speak with him as a fellow Christian, and that he needed to know how he had behaved. There was no way for me to know if it was an unconscious or intentional bias. However, as flagrant as it was I thought it could have been intentional. When I spoke with him, he did not deny his behavior but asked what he could do to make it right. He admitted he grew up in the south and had an unconscious bias. Though I am sure I did not handle the matter perfectly, I approached him with a heart of love, not condemnation. I told him I believed God would use him more if he corrected that area of his life. Because of the way I shared the story in the book, I was certain he would be able to identify that it was about our incident, so I gave him the manuscript to read before publication. He praised the book.

It was interesting because there was a life lesson — act to help others, even if they have wronged you, to bring love to the situation, not hate or retaliation. Unfortunately, hate has been ushered into the culture. But, just as dark forces ushered hate into the culture, we can usher love into the culture. That is one of my hopes for the book. Don’t idly stand by, do something.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that? Series of events:

Mine was a series of thoughts/events culminating in Diversity of A Different Kind. One morning I woke with the thought that God made diversity to make us holy more than just because He loves diversity. I struggled with the thought, which led me to my pastor to ask if my theory was theologically sound. He affirmed that it was. I then began to pray for God to help me write the book. When I eventually finished the manuscript, I knew God had given me a fresh perspective regarding conflict resolution related to diversity. Now I am on a mission to share the message of embracing diversity and loving each other as people made in God’s image, described more fully in the book. It’s important to love the person while separating their behavior which may not be lovely. Just as I have grown and improved myself, they can do the same. Love the person; hate the bad behavior.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

One, in particular, is related to a lady and her millennial daughter. The mother stated that the book’s principles “allow for the differences of others” helped her relationship with her daughter. Others have also spoken of how the principle helps them more peacefully interact with others. God made differences; respect those differences and benefit from broadening your horizons from your myopic arena.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

While I believe following biblical standards is the best way to approach the issues. I am well aware that others do not feel that way. Nevertheless, I think the problems can still be addressed based on decency in a more limited way. Polite society says there is decorum of operation regarding treating people with respect and dignity. Unfortunately, many in the community/society/and politicians forget common decency and spew vitriol toward those with differing perspectives. Decorum has come to be significantly ignored in our culture. The opposite is true; that which is vile is embraced, laughed at, and even encouraged.

With Christ comes the power to act not just according to standards of decorum but to act righteously (doing what is right and just). As a result, while not perfect, the church is in a better position to address the evils of society. But unfortunately, many people go with every wind that blows from their favorite media station and favorite politician, disregarding righteous and just standards.

It will significantly help if we stop making enemies of those who differ from us. Allow for differences that don’t violate principles of what is right. Jesus taught love. The culture is full of vitriol spewed directly against individuals and groups and on social media. We will implode from within because of sin if we don’t stop the madness.

Pursue peace and build up one another. We need to bear with one another, love and forgive, for righteous living. In summary, the three things are 1) Apply biblical standards if you are a Christian. If not, apply standards of decency in interactions with others; 2) stop making those who have a different perspective an enemy and trying to destroy them; 3) treat people with respect and dignity, and even love.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leaders model what they want the team to do and encourage and empower the team. Leaders lead and develop new leaders to repeat the process in others. If I dropped off the scene today and my team could not carry on without me, I would reflect leadership failure. One of my favorite leadership quotes: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit.” (Harry Truman).

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

That isn’t easy to answer because telling me five things may not have helped. I don’t know that I would have had the wisdom to receive the five things when I started; however, below are five things that may have been helpful if I had enough sense to receive them.

Your identity is not your career as a lawyer or how big your house, car, or material goods are. When you meet a new person, one of the first questions they ask is “What do you do” — as though what you do identifies who you are. It does not. Who you are is what is inside you, not outside trappings. My true identity is in Jesus Christ. For those who do not believe in Christ, their identity is also not in things or positions. Take away the material goods and career, and you will find the real identity.

Every human is valuable because each is made in the image of the God of the universe. There is dignity in humanity, and each person is to be treated with respect and dignity.

You were created to bring God glory, which means you should act to love everyone. Grounded people recognize that love is better than hate for themselves and the culture.

Loving God and loving others is the key to life. Love the person even though the behavior may be testable. Have goodwill toward the person and want the best for them.

Your decision to love does not depend on the other person’s behavior. Those most hateful, most need love.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are a lot of good quotes, and I like various ones for various reasons depending on the situation. One quote I like is a bible verse from Isaiah 43:18–19,

“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

At a troubling time in my life (like we all experience), this passage helped me forget painful incidents and move forward because God had new and better things for me. Indeed, he did. It is also similar to Ephesians 3:13 (b) — “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

I am in a great season in life, having forgotten those things behind and living the fullest life that God brought forth years ago and continues today.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I love talking to those I consider to be spiritual giants who look out for the interest of others. I have a wonderful pastor, Dr. Tony Evans, and other leaders in my church with whom I can talk. I can think of no one else at this time but perhaps John Piper because his messages resonate with me. Also, like me, one of the areas we both have a heart for is racial reconciliation. His book Bloodlines, coupled with Dr. Tony Evans’s book Oneness Embraced, could significantly help the culture and even the world toward racial reconciliation. Piper’s powerful testimony of being a former racist reflects the change that God can make in one’s life.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The website address of my business, Conciliation Services, LLC, is

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Oletha Barnett of Conciliation Services Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.