What is Peacemaking?
When you hear the term “peacemaking,” chances are that something major, like a meeting of global leaders, comes to mind.
It’s a tempting thought—that “conflict exists elsewhere and peacemaking is for the professionals.” But what about the anger, annoyance, and hurt we live with every day? Do we have hope for peace in our conference rooms, our classrooms, and our kitchens?
Who’s going to bring that peace?
Peacemaking is important work for even the most intimate spaces of our daily lives. We start to be peacemakers when we expand our understanding of conflict to include the ‘silly’ tensions—the ones that crop up on any given, normal day. When we identify these knots in our daily lives, two incredible things happen:
We identify a potential site for the transformative work of peace—an opportunity we couldn’t see before.
We find ourselves in the perfect position to carry shalom—a power for good that we’ve had all along.
Take, for example, the kitchen conflict:
A man and his wife both love to cook. They frequently find themselves working side-by-side in the kitchen. The man gets excited when he sees an ingredient that could make the meal even better, and he tends to vocalize his suggestions.
The woman finds this habit annoying because the suggestions sounds a lot like criticism. In the moment, she decides to voice her annoyance. What happens next?
The man has options.
— He can get defensive. (How is sharing suggestions annoying?)
— He can take a moment for introspection. (She was bothered enough to say something. Maybe that’s worth paying attention to.)
How the man responds comes down to his understanding of “the moment.” Does he believe that this moment, right now, holds real weight for the flourishing of either conflict or peace? Does he believe that the everyday has long-term consequences?
Our domestic or workplace spats may seem like one-off occurrences. But it’s much more common for our everyday conflicts to belong to a pattern of relating. Conflict is cumulative—the sum of weeks’ or years’ worth of moments in which misunderstanding and hurt were the takeaway.
Look around at your sphere of influence. That’s where you have the power to heal hurt, reverse patterns, and start spreading peace.
It’s taking care of small annoyances.
It’s working to stay right in your relationships at home and at work, knowing there are long-term consequences.
It’s realizing in that moment in the kitchen: The quality of my presence matters.
It’s saying, Whatever I gain by fighting for my reputation may feel like a win now, but in the end, it’s a loss.
If you’re feeling deep into patterns of relational conflict, remember that peacemaking—like conflict—is fueled by habits:
Try waking up and expressing gratitude for the breath you are not owed. It’s a good way to break the habit of entitlement.
Try seeing every person you encounter as a potential recipient of the peace and encouragement you have to offer. It’s a balm for the daily disappointments we’re all facing.
Try imagining a life for yourself that is made up of more and more moments that end in deep connection and love.
And let that mundane, personal picture of peace be the one that helps you on.
Counterstories is a blog collaboration between conflict resolution specialist Steve Beck and writer/editor Rachael Schmid. If you have a powerful story of forgiveness or peacemaking (or just want to share your thoughts on this post), we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at email@example.com.