Earlier today I was having a discussion, or better yet an argument, with a family member and came to the conclusion that most people don’t really know what peace is. Therefore, when they talk about wanting peace, they’re actually talking about something completely different than what peace actually is.
I’ve noticed that many people think peace and quiet are the same thing. This confusion makes it very difficult for them to actively engage in productive discussions about how to achieve peace.
It’s important to understand that when these people say they just want some peace, they’re really saying they want to be left alone. They want quiet, not peace.
The there are two problems with thinking peace and quiet are interchangeable. The first problem is that it allows the person to adopt an individual approach in achieving peace. Peace becomes the bi-product of their detachment and isolation, not the result of a communities’ hard work. Peace to one person means harmony and cooperation with others, but to another person it means silence and isolation. This outlook is troublesome for any conversation about peace.
If an individual approach to peace is to be taken, it must entail identifying and eliminating the problems inside yourself that impede the peace process of your community. Otherwise, peace will not be achieved.
The second problem with thinking peace and quiet are interchangeable is that it completely ignores the inherent conflict that creates the need for peace. I’ve noticed that people who confuse peace with quiet often overlook the conflicts that they are involved in that threaten their communities’ ability to achieve harmony and peace. In denying the war that is taking place all around them, which they contribute to, they remove themselves as a willing participant in its’ resolution. This outlook is also troublesome for any conversation about real peace.
We say we want peace because the image most of us associate with peace is of a person sitting alone in a quite place, not being bothered by anybody else. Unfortunately, that’s not really what peace is. That’s quiet, and it can be achieved very easily, with very little effort.
Quiet is isolation or detachment.
Peace, on the other hand, cannot be achieved until we have fully accepted the reality that we are involved in a conflict with our environment, and that the resolution to that conflict cannot occur without the willing participation and cooperation of all parties involved. Some of these conflicts are direct, others are indirect, but the results are the same.
I realized in talking with this family member that until they admit that they are involved in a conflict, then all of their talk of peace was a waste of time. You know how it is when you try to mediate a conflict and somebody always says something like, “I’m not mad at them, they’re mad at me,” or “They started it, I’m minding my own business,” or “I just wanna be left alone but they’re always hatin on me. I don’t have a problem with them.” Statements like this often deny the existence of the conflicts and stand in the way of peace. If you cannot acknowledge there is a war going on, and therefore your part in it, then you will never be able to achieve real peace.
Real peace is actually the opposite of an isolated existence. It is what happens when opposing forces achieve a harmonious existence with one another. The key word being “achieve,” which indicates that it takes work and compromise. Finding quiet is as easy as siting in the corner and not talking to anybody. Any of us can do that, yet we are still unhappy. Real peace requires much more of us. The truth of the matter is that peace cannot be “found” at all, it can only be achieved. The phrase “finding peace” sounds like something people do when they’re wandering around the woods by themselves and stumble upon a secret place where nobody can bother them. That is not peace–that is quiet and isolation.
What does this mean?
Well, first it means that before we can achieve peace, we must do the work required of us. On ourselves and in our communities.
It also means we must acknowledge that we are passively and actively involved in conflicts that require our participation to resolve.
If we really want peace, we must do the work.
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