Sitting at his 6-year-old son’s soccer game, Jim watched as his son’s coach started yelling at the ref and other coach about a claimed rule violation. This season, the league was experimenting with a rule that required keeping a goalie in for the entire half, as it often took the younger kids a fair amount of time to try and substitute in for the goalie since they needed to put on the goalie jersey and goalie gloves. The other team had a goalie in position who was quite small, and Jim’s team had some boys who could kick fairly powerfully. The other coach had become concerned about the goalie’s safety and decided to substitute him out for another player, thus causing Jim’s son’s coach to start yelling about the ‘rules’.
Both coaches became animated and quite a bit of angry yelling ensued. A few parents also started yelling, and the situation was growing tense very quickly. Jim sat and watched, as did some other parents who also elected not to join in the dispute. Eventually, the other coach put the same small boy back in as goalie for the remainder of the half, and the game continued.
However, Jim found himself reflecting on the situation. His son, and the other young children there, had just watched the coaches and a few parents in a verbal altercation. While Jim hadn’t become involved in the yelling taking place, Jim wondered what his son would remember about his dad. “Did I do anything to actually help the situation?” Jim asked himself, “or was I just trying to avoid conflict?”
What do we do when presented with a situation that involves conflict? Is there a difference between being a peacemaker and a peacekeeper? All people have a desire for peace – both inner peace and peace in our world. As Jim wondered,- we toolikely wonder at times, can one person truly make a difference in making or keeping peace?
A peacemaker, according to the Oxford dictionary, is a person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries. A peacemaker can also be described as a mediator, an arbitrator, or a diplomat. Notice that the definition describes one who is active in bringing about peace.
A peacekeeper, again according to the Oxford dictionary, is a person who tries to keep or maintain peace.One example of a peacekeeper is one who lets others have their way, simply to avoid the conflict. A peacekeeper often seeks harmony, compromise, and cooperation.
There is a difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper. One moves away from conflict and takes steps to try and simply stop tensions from boiling over while the other runs towards it to address the underlying issues and work to create peace through actually working through the issues that are present. Peacemakers actively pursue peace. Peacekeepers keep it by not doing anything controversial.
A peacemaker, from a biblical perspective, is one who is actively trying to reconcile people to God and to one another. Peacekeeping is about helping people reconcile, including those who feel broken or have broken relationships with others.
Being a peacemaker or a peacekeeper are both noble and good, and there are times for both. However, being a peacemaker requires movement and an active pursuit of peace compared to being a conflict avoider. Oftentimes, it is easier to be a conflict avoider than it is to work through the actual issues, and perhaps there are things in our lives that need to be addressed rather than avoided. In other words, perhaps it is time to move beyond just conflict avoidance, or peacekeeping alone.
To become a peacemaker means we must find internal peace in our own battles and courage to work through those. We can’t calm wars and anger in others if we have battles raging in our own hearts. In other words, to be a peacemaker in situations outside of our own, we must first address our own issues. We cannot keep avoiding the conflict that is inside forever, we need to face it and work through it, in appropriate and civil ways. If we desire to create peace among others, we must find it in us first.
One way of finding peace involves recognizing which pieces of ourselves we may be able to give up, such as our pride, jealousy, or desire for retribution. For many in the Christian world, finding this peace involves Jesus Christ. When our negative attributes are surrendered to Him, His peace can filland moveto action. In Philippians 4:7 it says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.” As we are willing to surrender stressful situations to Him, He will give us direction in finding peace aswe will find ways to actively engage. It doesn’t mean it is easy, but something worth doing, is worth doing right and all the way.
For those that are not Christian, the principles are much the same. Releasing or giving away our negative attributes to a trusted advocate can help us as we start to address the conflict inside. Often, another person is necessary to help us through this process, as it is very difficult for us to recognize all our internal issues ourselves.
Peacemakers are active, not passive. When Jim saw the two coaches fighting, did he do anything? Or did he avoid the conflict? When you see people fighting or angry with each other, do you avoid one or both to keep the peace? Or perhaps nod your head when one complains about the other to keep peace in the moment? If so, that is acting as a pleaser, not a peacemaker.
President Russell M. Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints reminded all that “Anger never persuades. Hostility builds no one. Contention never leads to inspired solutions…Contention reinforces the false notion that confrontation is the way to resolve differences; but it never is. Contention is a choice. Peacemaking is a choice. You have your agency to choose contention or reconciliation. I urge you to choose to be a peacemaker, now and always…charity is the antidote to contention.”
A peacemaker tries to bring parties together, disarm them, and work through the hard stuff with them to help them reconcile. That is putting peacekeeping to work. This clearly needs to be done gently. A peacemaker must be willing to listen and carefully respond, and politely agree to disagree. It is not possible to always agree, but our response will actively bring peace in those situations. Quentin L. Cook said, “It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable.”
Peacemakers are open to hearing all sides but are not willing to compromise on immoral or unethical principles to be a peacemaker. Don’t hesitate to stand for good and don’tquiet your principles or convictions to appease someone who goes against those convictions and beliefs.
Being a peacemaker may feel like it is making the situation messier before it gets better. Some conflicts are very difficult to address, and sometimes time is needed to have the strength or safe space in which to address theconflict. Patience is always needed where emotions are involved. Despite this though, walking through hard situations with someone to reach an understanding is possible. Sometimes it means stepping away for a moment or longer to see things that are hardest for us to see or giving others time to see things from a different perspective. Sometimes all we can do is plant a seed and wait for it to grow, then wait patiently for that seed to grow to the point where the other person is ready to address the issues.
In asking for all of us to bring more peace in the world, President Russel M. Nelson urged “to replace belligerence with beseeching, animosity with understanding, and contention with peace.”
So, can one person truly make a difference in the sea of contention and disputes that exist?
Yes, a person certainly can. Many disputes in the world arise as a result of unaddressed conflict inside a person’s heart. Resolving conflict within ourselves, and then our family, and then our sphere of influence will greatly change the course of many lives. Every experience with peace helps people desire it more.
As you bring peace to your sphere of influence, those in your sphere will in turn help spread that to their spheres of influence. It does not take long for your peacemaking to spread throughout multiple spheres of influence, touching multiple lives, and changing the course of many individual situations.
We are all connected. It is impossible to do good or bad in this world without it impacting the world by impacting those in the world. The ‘world’ is simply the sum total of the connections and experiences that we as humans have, and we each play a vital part in helping by proactively inserting peace into the connections and relationships we have with others.
At Believe, we are seeking for those who are willing to be a peacemaker. As we work together to be better peacemakers, we believe it will have a lasting impact on our families, communities, nation, and our world. Being active in seeking good, brings good and peace. We would love to have you join us in the journey of becoming peacemakers.