Friday, December 5, 2014

Seasons Greetings: Peace or Violence on Earth


Imagine greeting people with a blessing of “Violence” as in, “Violence to you and your family.” Of course violence has been a part of life for millennia. And we often hear that peace is fragile in some part of the world. But we hope for peace. And some of us work for peace.

In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, peace follows justice. That makes sense. We hear news stories of violent protests following a legal decision that seems unjust. Peace follows justice. Injustice disrupts peace. Future peace is predicated on evidence that the offended people will be treated justly.

The image of peace created by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah strikes us as strange. What kind of world would it be if a wolf and a lamb could eat together without the latter being the meal? A wise lamb would flee from the presence of a wolf. In the Bible, many texts admonish people to live righteously and justly. True, biblical notions of justice involve right relationships with God. But they are also about right relationships with other persons, regardless of their ethnicity. People who count as strangers (Leviticus 19:34) deserve to be treated fairly.

And for Christians, peace is often a theme for the second Sunday of Advent. Peace is a theme for the season.


There are spiritual and psychological aspects to developing inner peace. People on the verge of death are sometimes encouraged to “make peace with their maker.” Most of the world’s people are religious. And they are concerned with life beyond life. Peace with God requires an appreciation of justice. When people sense they have done wrong they wish to be forgiven. Faith provides a path to forgiveness. Forgiven people sense an inner peace. But often they need the help of a member of the clergy or a clinician to accept forgiveness and let go of the troubling and unsettling inner disturbance. Anytime is a good time to “let it go.”

Whether religious or not, self-forgiveness works. And self-forgiveness seems to follow the same process of learning to forgive others. Here's a link to a book on self-forgiveness and a research study: Moving Forward.


People who work for justice are working for peace. The scales of justice is an image that implies that a balance is needed. People need to be treated fairly within their society. Special treatment of one group or another is unjust. People constantly seek benefits for themselves and their kin or group. If they win special favors, they foster injustice and seek to disrupt peace. Peacemakers support just and equitable treatment of all persons.

Reconciliation is one process that can restore peace following a disruption. The reconciliation process is built on trust. Words alone will not build trust. Trust happens one day at a time. Every act of good faith builds trust. Every violation of a commitment to fairness and equality destroys trust. I have written about reconciliation before.


Here are some suggestions about promoting peace. Do share more in the comments section.

1. Promote peace by emphasizing improvements in policies and practices that foster justice for all persons in a community or workplace.

2. Resist the urge to characterize all of a person's life based on a few or even many failings.

3. Consider mercy when justice is required.

4. Take a stand against violence and protect the vulnerable.

5. Consider the possibility that people can be transformed rather than assume people will never change.

6. Learn conflict management skills.

7. Seek support when dealing with difficult people.

8. Practice self-forgiveness to experience inner peace.

9. Practice forgiveness of others to lessen internal distress.

10. Consider the possibility of reconciliation when others appear ready to rebuild trust.



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