Inside: Think it’s possible to pursue peace in a chaotic world? It is possible, but it starts with you and me. Learn how to be a peacemaker.
“I’ve called you to be a peacemaker.”
Those words surprised me during my prayer time about a year ago. And they irritated me.
I snickered before answering, “So you waited fifty years to tell me this? Isn’t it a little late in the game?”
The reply came back swiftly, “Would you have listened?”
The truth was I wouldn’t have. Mostly I grew up with strong women–fighters, scrappers–and being the oldest granddaughter on my mother’s side, it seemed like the mantle was passed on to me. I mulled this over, thinking of not only the major women influencers in my life, but also how God had added several more such women to the mix. Maternal grandmother, mother, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, daughter. I was surrounded!
Days later I continued the conversation with God. “If you called me to be a peacemaker, then why would you put all these fighter type women around me?”
His reply, “With all of those fighters, don’t you think there needs to be a peacemaker?”
I turned that over and over in my brain for several more days, wrapping my head around the term, trying it on for size, making my peace with being a peacemaker. To be honest, I struggled with it. In my mind it was the classic strong versus weak. Peacemaker equals doormat. My grandmother would talk about those kind of people–the sensitive kind–and she’d say the word sensitive like it was something to be pitied, rejected. Those people were a burden to the strong ones in the family. The Lord had been working on me about this for the last several years, renewing my mind, pointing out the truth, but obviously those old tapes were still playing in my head.
A few weeks later, more was added to the assignment: “You are a bridge-builder.” Hmm. I liked that. I pictured workers moving heavy materials by crane, constructing a foundation and building on top of that, from opposite ends, finally to meet in the middle. Nothing weak about that. Armed with this new image, I began to incorporate these little revelations into my own life, walking it out, practicing peace. Here is what I’ve learned:
Look for the best in people.
Instead of immediately thinking the worst of the folks who cross my path in my day-to-day living and judging their behavior, I tried to extend a generous dose of grace–the same grace that has been extended to me!
At my dad’s memorial back in January, a cousin told me that Dad’s thinking the best of people was something he had admired about my father and now practiced in his own life. He said he’d rather think the best about people and risk appearing naïve or foolish rather than finding fault with others.
Me, too, Glen.
Avoid words that tear down.
Words are powerful things. They can either hurt or heal. Build or tear down. So often we speak without thinking, without considering the weight of what we say. I often joke that a good comeback comes to me half a day later, at two in the morning, after the confrontation. I’m not quick with a flippant reply, and, really, I’m starting to see that as a blessing in disguise. If you are quick with a comeback, consider practicing a slower response. Evaluate your words first. Is that really what you want to say? How will you feel about those words tomorrow? While, yes, a heartfelt apology can re-establish a relationship, words already spoken remain out there. You can’t take them back.
Don’t leave positive words unsaid.
Often there is a reluctance attached to paying someone a compliment or expressing warm feelings. A vulnerability on the part of the speaker. Much like seeing the good in people, there’s a risk involved. But most of the time, it’s definitely a risk worth taking. My aunt Deb has been a good example of this. Years ago she started telling people how she felt about them. Though I don’t see her often these days, whenever I do she says, “I love you, Amy.” I find myself doing this with others more frequently–and I like the change in me.
And I love you, too, Deb.
Guard your heart.
What we watch on TV, read in books or on the Internet, or listen to affects us and the way we see the world. It’s hard to offer peace to others when we lack peace in our heart because we’ve filled it with contentious or negative things. Speaking for myself, that means fasting the news. The constant stream of news–almost entirely bad–isn’t healthy. When I was a kid, people got their news from newspapers, and a combination of local and nightly news from 5 – 6:30 and also 10 o’clock. In the mornings stations ran other shows, like children’s programming. Now the local news stations compete for 4 a.m. ratings and at 7 usher us off to New York for 2 more hours of national news. Not to mention 24-hour news cable stations and newsfeeds on Facebook or our ISP homepages. Go to a restaurant, doctor’s office, or the car mechanic’s and there are more TVs tuned into the news. Is all this necessary? It seems to me we’ve become a nation of imbalance when it comes to the news. We’re saturated with it, and we bring that negativity with us wherever we go. Or wonder why we keep refilling our prescriptions for Prozac.
It’s too much.
Find a healthy way to vent.
Peaceful people get angry, too. It’s important to find a way to deal with negative emotions. Venting to a trusted friend or journaling your feelings are two good ways. Or take the example of David, psalmist-writer, and pour out your feelings to the One who knows us, loves us, and understands what we’re going through. I have done all of these, and still do.
Pray for your enemies.
I’ve seen the fruit of this many times in my own life. I remember a couple of years back, a woman whose path crossed mine about once a month in a group setting had been irritating me, and I referred to her as “the woman I hate.” (Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s the truth.) One day during my prayer time, when I was asking God to move her elsewhere, He said, “Don’t call her ‘the woman you hate.’ ” I rolled my eyes, figuring that God wanted me to change my words to “the woman I love.” Then He said that if I can’t say anything positive to say “the woman He loves.” When I thought about it through that lens–that though this woman had said negative things about God, here was God saying, “I love this woman”–my attitude toward her began to change. I started including her in my daily prayers, and the relationship improved significantly.
Admittedly prayers for my enemies often start out as what I call “gritted teeth prayers.” Somewhere between a growl and a heavy sigh, words spoken through teeth tightly clenched together. But with time, those same prayers turn into something positive. Beautiful, in fact. It’s amazing to witness.
While I’m not suggesting pursuing peace is easy, I am saying that little by little, you will reap the benefits. Less stress. Better relationships. A healthier outlook, which results in a healthier mind and body. More room for joy and blessings and grace.
And we could all use more of that.
Do you consider yourself a peacemaker? Tell us about it in the comments.
Related posts: Finding my Pace: Slowing Down to Enjoy Life