Creating Peace When it is Hard to Find Peace
We encounter a story about tragedy in the world on a daily basis. Sometimes we don’t hear about what is happening around the globe because the stories are not in mainstream media, right in front of our faces. These stories impact us all in different ways. I think my challenge in these last couple weeks has been to live out of a place of awareness and empathy while understanding that the world needs us to be hopeful.
The holidays are coming and we will send and receive cards that say “peace on earth” among other mantras of good will. I am proposing that it is a rare occasion that we achieve “peace” without being intentional. I am finding more and more that we need to adopt a life rhythm in order to find balance and have moments of peace. I think this can be a very personalized adventure, but at the risk of sounding naive, I think there are some universal ways that we achieve peace. Through reading some great authors and wise human beings’ works that have been on the planet much longer than I, I’ve assembled some ideas here on how we can create peace:
1. Don't be afraid of uncertainty- This idea is clearly outlined in a solid book called “The Gift of Maybe” by Allison Carmen. The idea that changing a narrative in your head from “the whole world is crashing down and I am not sure if it is safe to leave my house” to “maybe, something really wonderful will happen if I leave my house today,” is a way we can decrease the amount of anxiety we all live with because of the prevalence of tragedy in the world and our exposure to it on a daily basis. This book was a great resource for me to develop strategies for my highly “feeling”, very emotional child.
2. Embrace diversity- Diversity is something not to be feared, but embraced. Creating diverse communities and experiences is not something we do for the sake of feeling good about ourselves, but because, according to research in Scientific America, diversity actually makes us smarter. Human beings know more, understand more, and accept more when we are around people who are different from ourselves. The great path to understanding another perspective is to be around people with a different perspective. Here are some great titles for teaching children about diversity found on “She Knows,” a trusted blogger. Some great titles (old and new) for the adult reader that we have come across are:
- Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King Jr.
- Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
- Driven By Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation through Diversity by David Livermore, PhD
- Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
3. Seek unbiased information- or at least a variety of sources of information. I know that sounds hard and joyless and too much time spent reading and consuming information from different sources. Maybe start small...once a week take a look at something from a news outlet you’ve never read before. Start with the major newspapers or tv stations at home or abroad, just to take a look at what other people are saying about the same thing. It’s hard to know what you agree or disagree with if you only take in information from the same source over and over. Mix it up, diversify your information. Here is a list of 10 Journalism Outlets to try, plus a few more in the runner up category. While I, in no way endorse any of the items mentioned on this list, it is a good place to start thinking about some news sources to check out in addition to the ones you already use (I hope we can all agree that Facebook is not a reliable source of unbiased information). It also gives some ways to vet the reputation of the information sources you use.
4. Surround yourself with balanced individuals- Ever hear the phrase “misery loves company” (Christopher Marlowe) or “bad company corrupts good character?” (Menander of Athens). It is amazing how much other people can “rub off” on us when we are least expecting it, especially if we are in the vulnerable position of trying to create peace for ourselves. There are people out there trying to do the same thing; people trying to live life and feel, yet not be overwhelmed or cynical. These may be your people, your village. The “village” term has become popular in recent years to mean finding a group of people (either in person or virtually) that can support you in the life you are trying to live. Along with all of the other things on this list, if you find a village with which to raise your children (or you), you’ve found a place to go when times get tough.
Balance means something different to everyone. I think the overarching sense of the word is for the us to keep “the extremes” in check. Extreme reactions, gossip, drama, big emotions, daily crises, keeping up appearances of perfection, these can all be red flags, but certainly we have to use our best judgement (sometimes there are legitimate crises). Choose to be with people who are willing to be real and vulnerable; be weary of “perfect” lives. If you are looking for balance in your own life, seek out those individuals who are consistent and who already display some of the qualities you desire (or are at least seeking those qualities as earnestly as you are). Also, I hear yogis have great balance! Check out some of these titles on striving for balance:
- Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
- Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker
- Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller
5. Grieve- Tragedy is sad. There is no way around it. Even if the tragedy is not happening directly to you or to your loved ones, most empathetic individuals can understand the feeling of how life altering it can be to lose a home, loved ones, security, or comforts of modern living (going weeks without electricity). It is ok to live in that sadness for a time. To pause and pray or remember, or memorialize. We shouldn’t run from pain, instead it is the pain of tragedy that allows us to live out of a deeper place. In my humble opinion, Glennon Melton Doyle is an expert on pain (there are many). I regularly follow her work to stay humble and honest about what it means to grieve when it is time to grieve rather than hurrying through pain to get to the other side.
6. Get angry- Maybe it seems anger and peace don’t go together. What I am striving for here is, the anger we get when we hear about an injustice. Something that happened at the hands of an individual, institution or system that is unjust or the drive we get to right a wrong is critical in finding and bringing peace to those who don’t have a microphone. The group Together Rising was built on the premise that everyone has a voice but not everyone has a microphone. Sometimes righting a wrong is simply allowing others to tell their story. When marginalized people are able to tell their stories, we can understand and get angry with them, thus making change a possibility.
7. Live in the real world- Take intentional breaks from social media and poor media sources. Get your body into the world of flesh, bones, trees, dirt, people. The touchable, tangible, smelly stuff of life. After a while, we can remember there is a tension and live into it; life is not all of what we read on the internet or watch on tv, but it’s also more than what we can see right outside our front doors. We as humans live in all those places.
I am learning more and more that the beauty of being present and mindful about what is happening in the world, means living in this tension. We can carry a deep sadness for the lives impacted by tragedy, while guarding ourselves against becoming jaded or cynical. We can empathize while not losing hope and wonder. We can grieve loss while celebrating victories. What are your favorite books and sources for living in peace? Please share in our comments!
Melissa is the Administrative Director and College Consultant for ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She has extensive experience advising in Higher Education and has degrees in Psychology and International Peace & Conflict Transformation.
Josi Garcia is the Co-Founder of ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, holds a Masters degree in Special Education, and has experience working with schools and families supporting individuals with special needs.
Photo Credit: Eddie Kopp on Unsplash