We recently received the above package from an organization that we support, and while I was excited (who doesn’t love surprise mail?!), the box gave me a twinge. Peacemaker? Am I really? This particular week, a week where I have never been more angry with or hurt by a specific group I’m a part of and the people involved, is not the week I would want to call myself by this name. Peacemaker? I'm not quite sure.
My week has been about processing brokenness and healing, anger and forgiveness. Peace-making at its most primary level. For several complicated reasons, I can’t deal directly with the people who had an active part in this particular pain I’m dealing with today. I can't even tell the story to anyone. Truth be told, I did tell a bit of the story to someone right away - the wrong someone (due to no fault of their own). Even at 42 years old sometimes I can't remember the lesson that not everything can be shared with someone, even if it's someone you love. This story isn't one I can process through with others.
The day after, I decided to just move on. Isn't it better to do and say only the expected things? To act like nothing happened? Isn't the right thing just to be gracious and kind and pretend like it wasn't something that made me question nearly everything I believe in and all of my life choices? (Listen, sometimes my thoughts get a little dramatic. I just need you to roll with me down this hill.) Aren't I called to keep the peace? I prefer this method, because it doesn’t require me to do anything. I am conflict averse to a fault. Checking out and numbing my feelings are my most used coping mechanisms, much to my therapist’s disapproval.
I’m also typically good at separating people from systems and systems from people. That skill has allowed me to largely operate with grace and compassion, leading with love. It has also prevented me from feeling the emotions I needed to experience to heal in a healthy way. It’s allowed me to give people a pass because I can blame the system and to give systems a pass because I can blame individuals. That circular logic gets me nowhere close to where I need to be.
None of this is how peacemaking or healing happens. Ignoring something doesn’t help it get better. Avoiding conflict does not heal wounds. Spiraling down inside my dramatic thoughts aren't the best way to move on. Peacemaking is way more complicated than that "people hurt people, systems don't hurt people" binary. Keeping the peace by excusing both people and systems and not doing anything about it may help you avoid hard work but can often hinder healing. Osheta Moore, in her newest book Dear White Peacemaker, says, “Anything that does not require us to sacrifice for each other is another form of peacekeeping, not peacemaking.” [emphasis mine] Healing takes intentional time and care. Peacemaking takes sacrificial work.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had forgiveness to pursue, reconciliation to consider, and peace to make without being able to do it in person. The fact that forgiveness does not always equal reconciliation was one of the first painful lessons I learned as an adult. The idea that peacemaking requires sacrifice from me in the form of time, sitting with uncomfortable emotions, reconciliatory acts that I might rather not participate in, that's not new to me either. What is new to this familiar position I find myself in: I know the right way to start. I know my next steps, and that feels like a win even when I've only taken one or two.
For me, those steps will look like long walks and prayer, journaling and tears, combined with a reviewing of my values and boundaries and what that means for my actions. It likely will mean lighting candles, writing letters and subsequently burning said letters, and rock gathering because I am a girl who loves a good ritual. It might mean setting stronger boundaries or even removal of myself from the situation eventually. Peacemaking usually requires external actions on top of internal work. Those are decisions further down the road than I am today.
I don't know what peacemaking looks like for you. I'm not here to suggest that everyone needs to use the same tools, but I do want to suggest that we all start in the same place, with this simple affirmation: I am a peacemaker.
The card that came in that surprise Preemptive Love box this week contains these words:
"I refuse to accept the way things are, because I believe in a world where everyone rises.
Where we live like we belong to each other.
And I believe this world begins with me."
I am a peacemaker.
It begins with me.
How do you take steps towards forgiveness and peace? How do you process through situations that you cannot share with anyone? Let’s learn to be peacemakers together.
"They are blessed who work for peace,
for they will be called God’s children."
Resources mentioned in this post: Preemptive Love