Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
If we are not monitoring our thoughts and feelings carefully, it is easy to fall victim to negativity and take a pessimistic view of humanity and what we are doing to one another. Depending upon your source there are approximately 61 armed conflicts currently in the world. Of these, there are 23 major conflicts, call them wars, that result in an annual death toll of over 1000. Over 200,000 lives are lost annually to wars and smaller armed skirmishes.
So what are we fighting about? We fight about cultural differences, religion, ideologies, and land disputes. We fight because of pride, ego, revenge and hatred. We fight because “we used to own it, so we want it back.” Ethnocentrism fuels many fights: we want our government and neighbors to be the same ethnicity as we are. You name it, and we will fight about it.
I read that only 2% of the male population wants war, along with another 8% that are ‘co-homicidal’. They follow along, caught up in the hostile frenzy. It has been suggested that testosterone could play a part in our aggression, competition, territoriality, and desire for power and dominance. But this is an easy and incomplete explanation for our penchant for war. Testosterone does not cause war. So no, ladies, castration is not the solution to world peace.
People fight wars for greed, revenge, for gaining respect and honor, and the desire to control and dominate others. They admire swords, guns, and warships as instruments of gaining superiority over others, of gaining respect from others, of being strong and able to protect themselves, their clan and nation.
Women are also caught up in these aggressive tendencies. Although they do not have the amount of testosterone as men, some women have no problem going at it. Especially female heads of state who may be obligated to act aggressively to overcome the stereotype of female military weakness. If women ran the world, perhaps there could be fewer wars depending upon the leaders.
What God gave us, our genes, DNA, and hormones, are not the only factors that provoke desires for war; the environment in which we are raised also contributes. We cannot eliminate testosterone or poor upbringing, but we can learn to manage the effects of external stimuli, both from nurturing and nature.
Our higher brain and spiritual nature, the part that makes us different from animals, can control our thoughts and actions. With practice and awareness, it can override the lower brain and egoistic influences. It takes discipline and mental effort to use our higher brain functions, reject the appeal of feeling superior and choose tolerance and compassionate solutions. It takes effort to release the old worldly belief systems that we learned as children.
This mental effort is crucially important; it is essential for a peaceful world because happiness and peace are a decision. We choose not to be bigoted or revengeful. AA and other 12-Step programs prove that we can overcome the strongest urges our DNA has given us. It is not easy; but it is possible.
Sadly, many people, men and women, regularly entertain destructive and non-productive ideas. We read negative and hateful news and emails. We watch television broadcasts and allow people to fill our minds with their agenda. We form organizations to foster hatred. In 1999 there were 474 hate groups in the United States. Today there are 733 active hate groups – groups who have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. That is down from 940 in 2019, not because hate is down, but sadly, because the hatred philosophies have become more of the mainstream thinking. Susan Corke, the director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, says that the extremist ideas expressed by active hate and anti-government groups are becoming “increasingly normalized.”
To prevent wars, we need concern for others and a willingness to compromise and demonstrate compassion. All hate groups have a low CQ – Concern or Compassion Quotient. They do not value other people and are unwilling to compromise. If I could choose one superpower, it would be to make other people have respect, concern, and compassion for other people and look upon others as worthy children of God. That may not create world peace, but it would be a step toward world tolerance.
On December 3, 1956, Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization.” So, what can we do to support world tolerance, world peace and infuse love into our civilization? A wonderful start is by applying the commandment of Christ “to love each other.” Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi wrote: “Be the change you wish to see.” We can also be the peace we want to see; be the love we want to see; be the strength we want others to feel; be the joy we want others to know.
We do this by making our minds a safe harbor; fending off the negative discordant thoughts that we allow there. We are bigger than hatred; bigger than prejudice. We can refuse to pass on negative and demeaning emails even if we agree with the sentiment. We can stop allowing our minds to be filled by someone else’s plan. Rather, we can make our mind a private resort – a secure fortress, filled with beauty and eloquence. As believers in peace and love, it is up to us to deliver peace and love; we don’t wait for it to come to us; that is being a victim. Instead, we proactively give it away.
I understand it is difficult to stay peaceful when life is overwhelming us. That is why it is critical that we turn inward to Christ. We find some peace, calm, and stability in our inner world so we can be kinder in our outer world. Daily we can seek that which soothes us: Spend time in nature, meditate, sing, dance, play, chill on the couch. Practice yoga, read by the fire, swim, eat good chocolate while watching the sunset. Disconnect from conflict and just breathe for a while. We attempt to center ourselves and tap into the peace we already carry within.
Another way to bring peace to ourselves and to the world is to heal a piece of our own anger. It is our higher minds that control the anger of our lower minds, and we do this by focusing on the positive. Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightful things we see when we take our eyes off the goal.” If we are seeing depressing things in life, then we are looking at the wrong things. If we are seeing obstacles to world peace or inner peace, then we are not focused on the goal, we are not focused on peace. We are focused on the problem, not the solution. Our thoughts are powerful. What we pay attention to expands; we attract peace with our thoughts. Notice peaceful people and places and events, and tune out violence.
Stop believing the media and remember that more people are at peace than at war all across the earth. This is the story we need to focus on, broadcast, and amplify. Regardless of what the media tells us, the world is evolving and becoming a brighter place.
Unfortunately, conflicts cannot be avoided. But we can learn to use the tension as an opportunity to express our views honestly and peacefully. As Louise Diamond says, "Conflicts are a call to creative problem-solving."
The next time conflict surfaces, keep breathing, stay calm, thoughtfully speak our truth, listen to others, and try to find some shared ground. Realize that our frustration may be about the situation, not the person. Set the intention to find a resolution. Agree to disagree, if necessary. It could be that we will not agree on anything. We can try to find some shared ground, but that's not always possible. I don't even think it's necessary to have shared ground. Not the way that we think usually think of it.
Friend, what can we agree on? We can't agree on anything. Wonderful. So how are we going to get along? I can still love you. We can still get along. It's just we don't agree on anything. What's the big deal.
In other words, try to find a bridge to the other person rather than digging a chasm and cut them off. Mystical poet, Rumi, wrote: "Out beyond the ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." Out beyond wrong-doing, right-doing, judgment, you're wrong, I'm right. Release that.
We tend to demonize and fear people we do not know. When we have incorrect perceptions, it is easy to hate people. If we don't understand them, we fear them. That is just something that we are taught, or we learn somewhere along the way.
“Don't talk to strangers.”
“Why not, mommy?”
“Well, because they could be bad.”
“How do you know they're bad if you don't talk to them?”
“Well, just stay away from them.”
There's no there's no logic to our thinking, just fear.
“Well, I'm fearful for you, son. Don't talk to strangers, they may hurt you.”
Hmmm. It is possible. It is also possible that a blind Russian albino wolfhound infested with rabies could jump through this window right now and bite me. It's possible, just not likely.
But when we get to know people and understand them, fears diminish. By getting to know the genuineness of others -- their culture, their religion, their backgrounds, their dream and hopes, what they desire and want out of life-- we find shared experiences, hopes, and beliefs.
Get away from politics; we rarely agree at that level. Tell me stranger, we don't agree on anything politically, but do you love your children? What do you want for your children? And I suspect there is some common interest there. We can find shared experiences, shared hopes, shared beliefs … connect on that Holy Ground, that field beyond the right doings and the wrong doings, and meet in the field of love. Connect on that ground and the peace of Spirit will flow through us, flow through them, flow into that moment. We will find commonality at that level.
This means that we can also find the genuine in ourselves. Beyond what we have been told to believe, what do we really believe? Beyond what we are told to think, what do we really think?
Arun Gandhi wrote: "We want to put an end to wars without giving up our violent intentions and violent relationships.”
That is so accurate. Some of are saying, “I am praying for world peace. But I pray that country burns in hell for what they’ve done.” We are each responsible for our own values, beliefs, words, thoughts, behaviors, and choices. We are not perfect; we have made mistakes and held wrong beliefs in the past. So as an adult, we take responsibility for the rights and wrongs on our journey for creating peace and move forward. We forgive ourselves for our misdeeds, judgments, and hurts and we forgive others theirs. It is such a waste of energy to hold onto resentment. Nelson Mandela said: "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."
And finally, the way we bring peace and tolerance to the world is to hand-deliver it. Again, from the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't need a college degree to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
The world is asking for our light; Spirit wants to express into Creation through us as Light, Love, Peace, and Joy. Our part is to say “Yes,” and discover our way to give back and help. You and I make all the difference in whether the world grows more chaotic or more peaceful. Our peace and tolerance ripple outward, affecting all we touch. Be the bridge. Be a peacemaker. Demonstrate what it is to be children of God: Choose peace; share peace; live peace; extend peace and tolerance. We make a difference.