The Two Places You Need To Make Peace
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.Matt.5:9
I hate conflict.
Just the thought of it makes me feel physically ill. I get nauseous and shaky; I can’t eat or sleep or think about anything else; I’m virtually paralysed until it’s over.
You’d think someone who is so afraid of confrontation would be really great at peace-making, but in truth, this fear has not served me well.
Instead of peace-making, it’s forced me into peace-keeping. It’s caused me to stay quiet when I should have spoken up. It’s meant I’ve avoided difficult conversations when I should have been brave enough to have them. It’s meant I’ve lived with open wounds instead of finding healing.
Truth and Reconciliation
In 1991, apartheid ended in South Africa. Many people feared there would be a huge, violent uprising as some sought retaliation and revenge for many years of oppression, while others tried to cling onto the privilege and power they were used to.
In the end, there was relatively little conflict, largely due to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
‘People told their heart-rending stories, victims expressing their willingness to forgive and perpetrators telling their stories of social atrocities while also asking for forgiveness from those they had wronged so grievously.’
Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness
A devastating cycle of violence was avoided because people did the hard work of telling the truth and making peace, instead of trying to keep up the appearance of peace that never really existed.
Making peace with ourselves
Most of us will not spend our lives at the forefront of international peace-making efforts, but we can begin by attending to the truth-telling and reconciliation we need within our own hearts. Brene Brown calls this owning your own story. We are broken people and most of us have parts of our lives that we don’t want to acknowledge because we’re ashamed of them. We’re not sure how other people will respond, or even how we’ll respond to ourselves.
But part of the journey towards wholeness involves reintegrating the parts of us we’d rather not admit to. When we stop hiding, even from ourselves, we discover that God’s grace goes all the way down and finds us, even in the depths of our most painful secrets.
Making peace with others
We also can’t avoid the hard work of making peace with other people. I have massive amounts of work to do in this area. But some of my biggest regrets come from times when I didn’t say how something affected me in order to avoid a difficult conversation. It’s been much more damaging than telling the truth would have been.
So I’m slowly learning to be more honest, to take steps towards making peace instead of just keeping it. When I’ve been brave enough to have those conversations, (or been dragged into them kicking and screaming!) some of them have gone well and some of them haven’t, but I’ve never regretted it. Telling the truth might be hard, but it is much more healing in the long run.
The end goal of making peace is reconciliation: with God, within ourselves and with each other. Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we bear witness to each others’ stories, forgiving where we need to and telling the truth in love, so that we can grow up into full maturity as children of God.
Some questions for reflection:
- How does conflict make you feel? Can you think of any times you’ve avoided a difficult conversation and regretted it? How has it affected your relationships?
- What are some of the differences between peace-making and peace-keeping? Which one do you tend to lean towards? Why is that?
- Why do you think telling the truth is such an important part of making peace?