What is peace?
When asked what peace is, my answer was always that peace is elusive. I did not believe I would see or feel peace in my life this side of heaven. I was challenged when I went to the PeaceWise “Everyday Peacemaking” course about how I viewed peace and my responses to conflict. I realised that one of the reasons why I was a Peace-Faker was not always fear of others’ responses as I had thought, but it was in fact my not caring enough about some people or relationships to make the effort to resolve a conflict. This was a confronting thought. I had convinced myself I had truly forgiven people who had seriously hurt me, but I think in most cases I had not actually forgiven them, but rather I had just written them off and breathed a sigh of relief not to see them again.
Conflict in the office
Some years ago I was acting Team Leader while my Manager was seconded to another position. Someone on the team took offence at the way I asked her to do something and made a complaint to the organisation. But every time meetings were arranged by management to examine the issues she raised about me, she would take sick leave and so trying to address her concerns became a frustratingly lengthy process. I had this internal conflict, both seeing her as a wounded person (who dealt with her hurt in a passive aggressive way) and yet also judging her (with the desire to see her be forced to accept how her behaviour impacted me negatively). We never did have a meeting to deal with her concerns. She ended up leaving, as did I.
If I had the chance again
After that experience, I determined in my heart that if I ever ended up in a similar situation I would deal with it differently. As it so happens, I was acting Team Leader in another team and a team member did not speak to me for three days. I assumed it related to a conversation we had about a decision I made which she was unhappy with. My first instinct was to furiously document all her behaviour to make sure I was protected in any potential complaint she might raise against me, but then I felt God say he wanted to teach me how to approach this situation in a new way – his way. So I prayed and waited until we had an opportunity to talk privately and I asked her if she was angry with me. She certainly was. What followed was an aggressive tirade about how aggressive I was and yet as I listened something was different in me. I could hear how I had handled the situation. I could hear that some of what she said about my style of relating was actually true and I had in fact been hurtful to her in one particular comment. I apologised and asked how we could move on from this. Though it was tense for awhile we did move on.
The easy way or the hard way
I once worked in a hostel for homeless men. One day the police were scheduled to escort one of the men, Leo, to a psychiatric hospital. However, Leo was not going anywhere. An officer said to him, “Leo, we can do this the easy way or the hard way”. Leo, despite being very delusional, stopped and asked, “What’s the hard way?” and the officer told him it would mean he would be carried by four policemen and put in the back of a police van. He asked what the easy way was and the officer said it would be for him to walk quietly with him to the van and sit up the front with them. Leo said, “I’ll take the easy way!”
The choice to forgive
I often think of this story when looking at choices God sets before me. As part of my journey to becoming a peacemaker, God has been challenging me about what it really means to forgive as Jesus did. He has shown me that I need to focus on the character and nature of Jesus. The Bible never says Jesus went off alone to a mountain top and thought in his heart about all that people had done to him that was hurtful and then thought about what he could do to get back at them; but it says that he went off alone and prayed. (Matthew 14:23)
Jesus, he did not harden his heart when people hurled insults at him, but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23
When he was being crucified he asked God to forgive those crucifying him, saying, “they did not know what they were doing”. (Luke 23:34) I know that for some, the call to forgive others their debts seems too great. It’s as if we are being asked to deny our painful reality, yet Jesus is our example.
PeaceWise training and the shift in my heart
For some time I have been struggling with a challenging personal situation. It was with this in mind that I did the PeaceWise training. The training reminded me that I have a choice in how I respond to conflict and that conflict is not to be feared but gives me an opportunity to glorify God and show what I really think of him. In Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker, he writes about the four G’s of peacemaking – seek to glorify God in the situation, get the log out of my own eye, gently restore and if possible go and be reconciled.
At this point in time I do not know if my personal situation is reconcilable, but the shift for me that has come via the training is the understanding that regardless of what the other person does, in my heart I can choose to honour God with my response and not get caught up in an idolatrous cycle of demandingness, bitterness, rage, depression and judgment. Having done PeaceWise training and being reminded that I have a choice, I feel more confident that I will be able to deal with this situation whatever the outcome.
This article is by Deirdre Savage. Deirdre has a Bachelor degree in Education and was a Primary Teacher for 8 years. She then retrained as a Social Worker and has worked in the aged care field for sixteen years.