I have spent a lot of time volunteering in and out of community organizations and churches, time listening to people of diverse backgrounds, time “people watching,” time reading blogs and news stories. I truly wanted to think and pray about the events going on around us in this world and decide what my beliefs and opinions are concerning a wide range of topics—everything from kids playing sports to world peace options. I am still undecided on a variety of topics, but here’s one thing I have discovered—very few people are totally honest about what they really, truly deeply want. We are conditioned to “give the right answer” and say what we are supposed to say in certain situations. (After all, who really wants to admit they don’t want world peace?) Why did I come to this conclusion? Because I truly believe that we have the resources to make almost anything possible, but we choose not to use those resources for the goals we proclaim to work for.
Let’s take saying we want peace in our nation. Do you really want that as you proclaim, or do you stop working towards peace when you have peace in your family and in the neighborhood you moved to? Because peace in our nation is a totally reachable goal. Let me give you some examples:
Peace requires “fighting fair” with our words (and posts). Many of us know what that means. We teach it to our kids; we talk about it in marriage counseling. Therapists and teachers lecture about it. Here are just a few of the rules we hold as important:
- Remain calm. Don’t overreact.
- No hitting below the belt at all. This creates distrust and anger. Don’t make fun of anyone—nothing demeaning can be said about their personal traits, their clothing, their family, their disabilities, etc.
- Avoid accusations. This puts everyone in a defensive mode. Instead of accusing, talk about how you feel in a situation.
- Don’t generalize and say words like always or never. These statements don’t usually reflect facts.
- Avoid falsehoods/make believe. Don’t exaggerate to make your point. Stick with provable facts by only reputable sources or witnesses.
- Stick to one issue at a time.
If we know these rules that we say we live by and we tell our children to live by in schools, then we must examine every comment we make on social media, every post, every hashtag used and see if we are playing by the rules. If not, then we need to say that we don’t really care about peace—we want lots of likes on our pages or we want things to go our way, but we really don’t want peace. You can’t have peace and break the rules at the same time.
- Peace in a democracy requires that all people feel that they can be represented. We won’t all get our way all of the time, just like no child gets their way all of the time; no employee gets their way all of the time. Sometimes I will ask for a street light on my block and be told it’s not possible at this time (just throwing out a goofy example—haven’t asked for a street light). Sometimes I will be denied a permit or turned down on a request, but I will know why and will accept the answer or fight fair and see if the answer can be changed. It’s a democracy, so I can speak up without being hated.
- If we want all people to be a part of the peace and a part of the democracy, as we say it was intended by our founders, then we must listen fairly. We have to hear the opinions of others and decide how we both can possibly reach our goals without harming the other or impeding the goals of another. (There are many times when both people/groups can reach their goals—you can get your hopes reached and so can others.) That means we have to drop our assumptions and listen. (Note: If someone breaks the rules and starts being abusive to us, we can stop listening and move on to the next person who is willing to talk respectfully to help us bring about peace.) If you are unwilling to sit at a table and listen, then you cannot help bring about peace.
- Peace requires being willing to be open to many possibilities without being required to change the core of who you are. For example, maybe there are solutions that make sense for all people involved. If we each can honestly say what we are willing to compromise on and what we are not willing to compromise on, we start finding areas where we can each bring our gifts to the table to end our conflicts.
- We must be honest about honesty if we want peace. It saddens me to see so many sources listed as news that are just written by bloggers with an agenda. Go to the sources. Find the truth mixed in with opinion. I feel we should stop patronizing sites that are not based on all of the facts. Stop picking out partial truths and running with them. We criticize people who tell half-truths about us, so we must be the ones to stop the problem. If we know we are not fact-checking info, we aren’t working towards peace. If we are only reporting truths about ALL people and ALL circumstances (not just people we like), then we are working towards peace.
- We have to ask ourselves if we are blaming the lack of peace on everyone else. We have to start with admitting where we erred. Admit it if we break certain laws (speeding, driving rules, medication rules, etc.), but are apt to hold others more accountable if they break a law. We will have a harder road to peace if we don’t also examine our own posts, our own words, our own actions, our own tongues. Blaming perpetuates conflict. Online retaliation and breaking the rules just because someone else did will make peace much more unachievable. Being personally responsible is the first step towards peace.
I am not naïve. I do not think that just because you and I start being nice then every person will be nice. I don’t think immediate peace in this nation will come about in a day or a week or even a month. But we will honestly be working towards peace in our nation—a true peace that will help us set the stage for working towards world peace. But it starts with us—one person, one family, one city, one state, one nation…