The term "to extend an olive branch" means to make an offer of peace or reconciliation. This term has Biblical origins, coming from the section of the Old Testament that deals with the flood; the sign that the flood is over is an olive branch brought back to the ark by a dove. Olive branches were also symbols of peace in Ancient Greece and Rome, and they continue to be used in various works of art that are meant to suggest peace, from murals to patches.
Some people have suggested that the olive was a very deliberate and well-considered choice as a metaphor for peace, because olive trees famously take years to mature. War is typically very hard on the trees because people cannot take the time to nurture them and plant new ones. Therefore, the offer of an olive branch would suggest that someone is tired of war, whether it be an actual war or a falling out between friends.
In Ancient Greek and Roman times, people would offer literal olive branches. In Rome, for example, defeated armies traditionally carried olive branches to indicate that they were surrendering, and the Greeks incorporated them into weddings and other ceremonies. In the modern era, the branch is usually metaphorical, rather than literal, not least because the plants can be a bit difficult to obtain.
Many people agree that peace negotiations at all levels of society are a good idea. Between nations, obviously, it is important to extend an olive branch to ensure mutual safety and to help the world run more smoothly. This act can also be important on a personal level, as resolving conflict and learning to get along with others is viewed as an important life skill in many cultures.
At some point in their lives, many people will be advised to extend an olive branch to settle a dispute or resolve an issue. Some people believe that it takes an immense amount of courage to take this action, as it often comes with an admission of wrongdoing and regret. When an olive branch is offered with ulterior motives, such as trying to get someone else to admit that he or she was wrong, the attempt at reconciliation often goes awry, and this is a very important thing to remember. People who genuinely believe that someone else has wronged them should either wait for that person to make the first move toward peace or find a way to forgive them so that there can be an attempt at genuine reconciliation.