Martin Luther King, Jr. said that, “It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.” Each time I pass this banner in front of the Quaker meeting house I’m reminded that our actions for peace have to start in our own homes and lives.
What are the causes of war but the same things that lead to strife on the micro-level: wanting an advantage over someone else, refusing to forgive a past wrong, holding on to things long after their importance has waned?
A more peaceable life might be within reach if we turned more often to these intentions:
Compromise — The word comes from the Latin meaning a “mutual promise”. Too often we think of compromise as one-sided, only seeing how much we are giving up. But the promise in compromise is powerful, and it shows how much we are gaining from the other side.
Listen first — In the words of a U.N. peacekeeper, “You have to be willing to let each person express their point of view, even if it’s a criticism against you. You have to let them talk first, and then speak. If you don’t let them express themselves, you won’t get any results from the discussion.”
Forgiveness — When we forgive, we can begin to heal the hurt that we feel. Refusing to forgive just lets the hurt fester – and closes down our hearts a little. Gregory David Roberts writes that “every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive,” that love is dependent upon our ability to forgive.
Accept change — Nothing stays the same. And as Frank Jude Boccio writes, “The problem is not that things change, but that you try to live as if they don’t.” We let beliefs about how things should be keep us locked in a struggle with how things actually are. Shedding those habits of mind can drastically shift perspective.
Happiness is a universal goal — In an interview in The Atlantic, Daniel Gilbert talked about it this way:
I think the problem with the word “happiness” is that it sounds fluffy. It sounds like something trivial that we shouldn’t be concerned with. But just set aside the word and think about what the word signifies. You quickly realize that not only should we be concerned with the study of happiness, but that it’s impossible to be concerned with anything else. Pascal says: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception … This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”
How could the goal of all human behavior be a trivial thing?
How does your life help to remove the causes of war? We may not be able to solve the problems in the Ukraine or Syria, but if we live our lives in a way that demonstrates the principles of peace — acceptance, forgiveness, compromise, humanity, understanding — maybe we can start a tiny ripple of peace in the world.