living in peace

Posted on October 16, 2011


Over and over I ask myself, what does it mean to live in peace?

I know there is no other thoughtful and heartful way of living.

And yet… what does this really mean?

Nationally, what do I believe about peace? Do I really believe that we can solve our problems with the violence of war? Or do we need to develop the character and depth to live with the patience it would take to have a dialog with those that do not think or believe like we do?

In our local communities, what would it look like to live in peace? Would human service organizations be competing for a piece of the pie or fighting together for the rights of those that are marginalized? Would churches and religious groups be caught up in being right… and making others wrong? Or would we remember that we are all human and fallible and need each other to survive… no matter our beliefs.

Individually, do our actions, reactions, and interactions reflect a life a peace? Or do we tend to kick the nearest “dog” available? What happens when our “walls fall down”, our agenda for life is not followed to our liking, or when the Dark Night of the Soul takes over? What happens when our financial security caves in and we forget that it is ALL temporary anyway? What happens when too many things pile up and we don’t know which way to turn? Do we blame others; trying our best to pin something… anything on another? Do we question their competence? Do we label them according to our assumptions? Do we approach them from a position of authority and superiority; as if we have the right to control them?

Do we really think that we know what it is like to walk in the shoes of another?

Recently, I’ve experienced this. Someone that I had a lot of respect for decided I was to blame for their financial walls of security falling down.  In the need to blame, I was the “dog” to be kicked. For some reason, we have this insatiable need to explain WHY things happen. Blaming gives us our own conjured-up WHY. Then we can pin it on something… anyone. From a position of superiority and “knowing”, I was presumed incompetent. Without even asking, the person “knew” I was nothing but a person that procrastinated and was lazy and didn’t care about the things that I “should” have cared about… according to his agenda. It was a fabrication, a conjured up fantasy that allowed him to blame… to kick the “dog”. There was no inquiry into the truth. And we can never “know” what it is like to walk in another’s shoes.

Living life in peace means a few simple and very obvious things.

  1. We presume competence. We believe people AND we believe IN people. We no longer judge others or label them. We assume that they are doing their best to “make it”. We BELIEVE in our actions that all people are created equal.
  2. We remove all seeds of violence from our actions, reactions, and interactions. Violence is anytime we violate the identity or integrity of another person. Kicking the “dog” is violence, obviously. But so is talking to someone like we already “know” all about them, about their life, and about their struggles. We need to learn to talk to others from a position of intelligence and inquiry, not the dogmatism of “knowing” or pre-judging them. We treat people as they are; created equal. There is violence in all of these things:
    • Hitting someone
    • Yelling at someone
    • Labelling someone
    • Knowing better than another
    • Presuming incompetence
    • Putting someone down in your mind or before others
    • Pejorative or judgemental words, thoughts, labels, or assumptions.

    Seeds of violence exist in all of these actions, reactions, and interactions with others.


  3. Living life in peace means that we remember this: whenever we encounter another person, neither of us walk away the same. We are changed, either for the better or for the worse. Do we encounter others in peace, or not … ?
  4. Living life in peace means that we seek out associations with people that are life-giving, not death-dealing; with givers, not takers. In order for us to live out a life of peace, we need to be at peace, as much as it is possible for us, with all people. Peaceless people disrupt the peace in our lives. Boundaries are necessary in order to truly live in peace. There is no obligation for us to subject ourselves to the violence of others, no matter how subtle it may be.
  5. Living life in peace means that we promote an environment of peace, gentleness, tenderness, and understanding. Does my life reflect the fruit of the Spirit?
  6. Does life emulate from me or does toxicity define my life? Do I blame? Kick the “dog”? Am I a taker or a giver? Am I life-giving or death-dealing?
  7. Living life in peace takes intentionality. Do we really intend it? Are we deliberate about creating peace? Do we reflect on all aspects of our actions, reactions, or interactions? When we do, it changes everything. A deeper understanding of violence has changed my relationship with my own kids and every other relationship in my life. And I am learning that boundaries may be necessary with certain people.

I believe that there are “testimonies” in my daily life that express my faith within. This issue of peace is one of the testimonies along with equality, integrity, simplicity, and community.

Equality: do we believe that we are all equal? That judging another is obsurd? That knowing what it is like to walk in the shoes of another person is presumpuous, to say the least. “We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” (Paulo Coelho)

Integrity: am I who I say I am? Does my role reflect my soul? Do I profess faith or love and then contradict it with my actions? Who am I? Am I living the life that wants to live in me?


“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”  (Peace Pilgrim)

“The journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step. So we must never neglect any work of peace within our reach, however small.” (Adlai E. Stevenson)

“Violence is any way we have of violating the integrity of the other. Racism and sexism are violence. Derogatory labeling of any sort constitutes violence. Rendering other people invisible or irrelevant is an act of violence. So is manipulating people towards our ends as if they were objects that existed only to serve our purposes.” (Parker Palmer)

Related Posts:

Violence at the Heart of Things:

The Way of Peace: