Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Value of Inner Peace


When you or I talk about peace and peacemaking or peace building, how do we know that we're talking about the same thing?  Some people think of peace as meaning disarmament, or of stopping a war, or of sending an army into a genocidal area to stop the killing.  Othes think of gun controls. On the other end of the spectrum, others might think of meditation and inner peace.  Still others might think of peace as encompassing stopping disputes among neighbors.  Some families think of peace as avoiding an argument between those of opposing political viewpoints at the family holiday dinner.  No matter what aspect of peace we talk about, I think we can all agree that peace is important.  But how can we wrap our minds around the big picture of "peace" as a concept?  That's what this blog is about.  So, let me propose a larger framework for how to think in terms of peace and the consequences of living in a way that furthers peace.  

The peace I am concerned about is not about hippies, peace symbols and doves. It is much deeper and broader.  It is more than a philosophy.  It is more than a rally.  It is a way of being which leads to outward expression.  Although a dove may be a symbol of one aspect of that peace, a symbol sometimes associated with weakness or surrender to might, there's nothing frail or fragile about the positive force of peace. Another metaphor for the positive force I speak of is the presence of light in the darkness; the idea of good as opposed to evil. The kind of peace of which I speak is a powerful, positive force in its own right. It is the antithesis of evil.  In fact, it confronts evil and wages peace against it. We might even, if we are bold, describe peace as both the cause and result of a force that God brings to the world through our Witness.

So what, exactly, is PEACE, in terms we can see manifested concretely in our lives and in the world?  The concept I speak of includes Satyagraha.  (This is what Ghandi called it.)   It includes Compassion.  (This is what Karen Armstrong calls it.)  It includes Truth Force.  (This is what Martin Luther King, Jr., called it.) If pressed, I'd say that when Jesus speaks of Love, he is speaking of this transformative power. When he instructs in what we are to do and how we are to act as Christians, he is speaking of a life transformed by the truth force we call peace.

Some components of how we are to act, that lead to and manifest this love, are reflected when we seek and implement peace in these specific arenas:
  • Individual peace: How do we live a life of integrity and wholeness, a life that leaves us not only feeling good day to day, but also a life lived in such a way that when we reach the end of our journey on earth, we can look back and say, "It has been good." 
  • Family peace: How do we live a life such that there is peace in our families? How can we train up our children so that they have better, healthier and more peaceful lives? How can we build better, healthier, and more resilient family systems, relationships, and methods for resolving family conflict?
  • Peace in our communities: This includes our churches, schools, community organizations. and places of employment. In the places where we work, live and volunteer daily: How do we make decisions, how do we treat each other, how do we address conflict when it happens? 
  • Peace in our cities and larger communities: How do we treat our neighbor, even when our neighbor is a stranger? Are our communities places of respect, justice, and restoration, or are they places where people build walls of economic and individual separation or marginalize one another? Are our cities beacons of peace and prosperity, or do we live in a war zone in the way we treat our neighbors?  
  • Peace within our community of communities, our nation:  Do our national policies and laws build economic justice and sustainability?  Do the systems we create for governance in fact work on behalf of those who are affected?  Are some harmed while others gain, as a result of the systems we build?  In fact, are our systems just?  
  • Peace internationally:  How do we reach out to others?  How do our own actions affect those of the world?  What concern should we have for others in the world?  How can we recognize, respect, and even celebrate our differences as cultures, yet reach understanding in reference to universally accepted norms?  When do we intervene to protect an Other from unjust systems, even if that Other is outside our normal scope of interest?  How do we contribute to more just international systems of trade, law, commerce, and achieve moral consensus?  When do we intervene against immoral oppressors?  The scope gets broader and broader.  
With all these potential areas in need of greater peace, where should we begin? Where should we focus?  I suggest we should start from within.

  • A wellspring of peace, within our individual lives, generates a healthy bud which then makes us more able to respond in healthy and peaceful ways to build our families. 
  • Our healthier families enable a stronger response overall to our larger community.  
  • Our healthier communities lead to stronger commitments to our democratic and national ideals.  
  • A nation forged from right relationships will have a strong moral compass and healthy direction as a nation.  
  • A nation that stands as a light on a hill will then be able to participate as a leading light in the community among nations, with clear goals for policy rooted in right relationships.  
This idea of peace emanating from the inside out, from the small to the large, is a basic principle.

I write this blog entry on an Ash Wednesday, as we are entering Lent.  Lent is a time of reflection.  There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth within the church today about the future of the church.  The church as an institution itself is not sacred!  If it is rotten, it does not provide a foundation for anything else.  So, what is the foundation for peace as witnessed by the church?  I suggest that to focus on external peace, international affairs for example, is to focus on leaves rather than branches.  During Lenten reflections on peace, I suggest we ask:



What leads me to this suggestion?  In part, it is an idea expressed by the prophet Ezekiel, who said that if a building is pretty on the outside but is still rotten underneath, the outward trappings are worthless when the building falls down.   It is important for each of us to pay attention to the structures and the real condition of our lives, not just how it looks on the outside.  We cannot expect to bring peace to others if we do not live it and demonstrate it ourselves.   I quote from the prophet Ezekiel, Chapter 13, verses 8 - 16: 

Therefore thus says the Lord God: "Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall!  There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ Therefore thus says the Lord God: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord God. [emphasis supplied]




1 comment:

  1. Great article ! very informative and concise.
    I agree that by realizing our own inner peace, we can manifest how we feel from within towards how we interact in our surroundings. It takes calmness and serenity to feel wonderful of all the things we see. No matter how chaotic and stressful our surrounding is, if you have inner peace, then living with deep appreciation and contentment will be easy.
    I also would like to share my work, about how one can change from within by realizing his/her inner peace and self-worth and become a better person. Just please visit my site at .
    Thank you !


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