There is no peace on earth, I said,
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
(I heard the Bells on Christmas Day, 3rd verse)
Some days can feel this way. We hear the cry for peace on earth repeatedly throughout the holiday season. Even in the midst of all the lights, music and beauty of the season, some may feel like peace is just unrealistic. Now, like most of you, I’m an optimist and I dare to see the good in the world. However, it can be almost more frustrating, because of that expected optimism, when we find ourselves struggling to feel peace and good cheer. On those tough days, when the Christmas shopping has been particularly exhausting, the holiday events have been a little too much and the kids have been particularly loud, it’s easy to get down on ourselves and say, “Snap out of it! Stop feeling nasty!”
Recently, my sons and daughter have been chasing each other through the house, yelling at the top of their lungs. Now that it’s a nose hair freezing five degrees outside here in Idaho, maintaining inside voices has become a little more difficult without having wide open spaces to run, yell and play. Sometimes the volume level and the almost explosive energy that emanates from our children can be overwhelming, and that is just when everyone is happy and getting along. Things escalate to a whole new level when the noise and chaos includes screaming, “He took my Lego piece” or “I wanted the Spiderman cup!”
As a Mom or Dad it can seem like there is an almost never ending flow of noise, whining, demands and commotion, especially during the busy holidays. The truth is, there kind of is. That is my life and your life. A parent’s job never ends. So how do we promote peace in our homes, much less the world in such a condition? Remember this…
Peace has far less to do with what is happening outside of us and more to do with what is happening inside of us.
A.J. Muste said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”
What is Peace and why do I want it so badly?
Have you ever met one of those people that is not phased by turmoil of the world around them, or maybe you have been that way before? When we speak of peace we speak of calm and tranquility. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it in calm and miraculous ways that lift self and others. This is the beginning of creating peace at home and ultimately in the world. Peace is feeling comfort despite uncomfortable circumstances. We all have enough discomfort that a little peace could do wonders in infusing our lives with a little more happiness and joy. So, how do we start the flame of peace within ourselves?
How do we get it?
1. Face your past and live on purpose:
All of life’s experiences affect us. Where we came from, what we have experienced, and how we have chosen to engage or not engage with them have shaped who we are today. When I teach parenting classes I talk about our APP’s: Attitudes, Perspective and Programming. It’s important to recognize how these things have been molded by past relationships and experiences. Instead of simply following an unconscious program, we must deliberately begin to interact with and form those “APP’s,” instead of letting them dictate our feelings and behaviors.
2. Be comforted:
You are most likely surrounded by people who love you and are supporting you. You may find that comfort from your spouse, your children, or a friend. No matter your situation, you can always find comfort from God. These supports and comforts can help give us perspective when we struggle to see it ourselves.
3. Relax and Be present:
“A smile is the beginning of peace” (Mother Teresa). There is actual clinical evidence that shows that just smiling can increase our feeling of peace, calm and overall well being. Practice relaxing your body often. Release the tension in your shoulders, raise your eyebrows and pay attention to what is happening right now.
4. Accept stuff you can’t control:
Remember this phrase, “It’s OK.” The house is a mess but “it’s OK.” Traffic is ridiculous and I need to get some food in these hungry kids before they realize they are starving but “it’s OK.” Think it, say it and believe it! All things pass in time. I love a quote I once heard that says, “All is well that ends well, and if it’s not well yet, it’s not the end.”
5. Fix stuff you can control:
One trap we should not fall into is thinking that passivity is the same as peace. Passivity and procrastination actually increase stress and create larger conflict and problems. We can always act, but the important thing is to act on the things that are actually within our own control, even if all we can only act upon is our thoughts. George Bernard Shaw once said, “Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous.” Peace is hard work. It goes against our natural inclination to fear and react with irritation and anger. Make a conscious, strong effort, to move toward others in love, especially in moments that threaten your peace.
6. Forgive, yourself and others:
Forgiveness ultimately allows you to free yourself from past offenses, whether they are your own or that of others. It releases you from captivity and tumult of spirit that we often reserve for unresolved pains. Forgiveness, small or large prepares and heals the barren ground of your heart so that the seed of hope and peace can grow there.
When we apply these principles in our lives, the chaos dissipates and the peace enters in. It’s not that our circumstance has necessarily changed, although often times it does, but it’s that we have changed. We can experience the same things with a sense of peace and calm. The last verse of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day resolves so beautifully the tragedy of the 3rd verse sited above. We hear the stunning refrain…
“Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day.
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men (or to your children).”
(I heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Last verse.)
When peace is in us, the world truly revolves from night to day. The voice of a child, the traffic and bustle of people running about gathering last minute gifts and the thunderous roar of children playing can remind us of the best things in life. We can pass on peace and good will to men, women and children everywhere!
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