It All Begins With Peace

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:

If you find yourself constantly accusing SEVERAL people of the same faults, perhaps it’s time to look…INWARD. If you have been complaining about being misunderstood, not by one person, but by many, for DECADES, it’s time to look…INWARD. If your life is such that arguments and miscommunications are the norm…well, I would say it’s time to look inward again, but I have come to understand that for some people, that level of high drama does not present a problem. It seems normal. And that’s sad, because to be in a constant state of opposition and defense is not normal.

It astounds me how people can be so delusional as to believe that things are somehow always SOMEONE ELSE’s fault. And not just ONE someone else. SEVERAL. EVERYONE. ANYONE. ANYONE but them. They will run and hide behind a myriad of excuses, avoid responsibility at all costs, just so they can avoid facing some unpleasant truths about themselves.

And then they wonder why they are so unhappy, living lives that appear stable but are run through with a current of misery, disconnection, and inner turbulence.

People who refuse to engage in any sort of self-examination frighten the bejesus out of me. Honestly. I just don’t understand how things can constantly be going wrong in your life or in your dealings with people and you don’t sit back and say, hey, I need to take a look at what contributions I am making to my OWN discord. I just…don’t get it. I have yet to get in an argument with someone and not look back on it and say, this is what I could have said differently. This emotion was perhaps unreasonable or unwarranted or overreactionary. And then, follow those up with communication that ADMITS that, in the hopes that my own admissions will pave the way to some peace, if not theirs, certainly my own. Because admitting fault gives me peace, not because I like to feel I am always wrong, but because I know I am human, and when I admit that, and admit my faults, I rise above them, I am more mindful of them, and I am also saying to the other person, I respect YOU and myself enough to give this some thought and admit my fault where applicable. There is nothing dishonorable in accepting blame. It does not mean that the next time everything will be my fault or that I will allow that to be said. It does not mean I am into self-flagellation. It means I am self-aware, respectful of both my humanity and my higher spirit, and that of the person with whom I am in disagreement.

Other people, however, will cling to their life rafts of indignant self-righteous rage, because it is so much easier to cling to that than to accept that they may have been WRONG. Not wrong overall, mind you, but perhaps wrong in tone, wrong in word choice, wrong in some way that contributed to the escalation of unpleasantness.

People like that used to make me angry, but I have been reminding myself of late that, for several reasons, anger is not in the least bit useful. For one, anger tends to make people like that defensive. ANYTHING that points a finger at people like that, even constructively, tends to get certain people defensive, but certainly anger will never be met with an admission of guilt of ANY sort.

Secondly, anger is not good for ME to hold on to. My life is generally rather pleasant, to be honest. I have moments of weakness and inner turmoil, but I realize that for the most part, these are self-inflicted miseries that I need to let go of.  To hold on to anger at someone, particularly people who will never be self-aware enough to engage in reflection, is an exercise in futility.

Thirdly, and in some ways this is the most important…rather than engaging with anger, I can expend any energy I choose to spend on that person in a positive fashion. In some cases, that doesn’t mean direct contact, which is so often fruitless, but prayer and positive vibes being sent to that person. What this does for me is allow me to divorce myself from the toxicity of the relationship without holding onto negativity. I can then perform self-examination: What could I have said differently? Was that emotion warranted? What did I contribute to this misunderstanding?

There are many times when my answers lead me to realize errors. There are many times when my answers lead me to feel justified in my response. Most often, it is a combination of both; people are rarely completely right or completely wrong. But at all times, I am self-conscious, and self-aware.

Being self-aware has, over the past few years, led me to the realization that there are some people that I need to keep at arm’s length. There are others whom I need to stay away from altogether. There are, thankfully, not very many people who fall into this latter category, but I have to say that the 2-3 people who DO, are people whose relationships with the world at large are rife with misunderstanding, delusions, and/or self-aggrandizement. And this helps me to put the relationship in context and realize that this person is dealing with me in perhaps the only way they know how, and that while I may choose to be aware of that and forgiving, it does not mean I must continue to expose myself to it.

I cannot implore people enough to engage in conversation with the self. To know one’e self. To love one’s self, to be sure, but not to be so blind in that love that we begin to see self as faultless, blameless and infallible at all times. To love one’s self enough to admit imperfection, and then to go about the task of WORKING on those things that can be changed and bettered. When we wallow in imperfection and excuses, we deny the self progress and peace. And it frightens me that some people are so invested in excuses as crutches that they refuse to throw them away and walk with the free and confident gait of those who have sought self-improvement and found it. I am literally amazed and saddened at how people prefer to be imprisoned by fear, like mice peeping out of a hole. They use fear as a defense and as a weapon and never understand that they person they stab most often and wound most deeply, is themselves. Funny, isn’t it? That the person they seek to protect at all cost is the one they end up hurting the most? But they will never realize until they come out of the hole and see the sunlight they have been missing…

I say this again, and I will not stop saying it: the whole world cannot be wrong. If many many people make the same complaint about you, it is time for self-examination. If YOU make the same complaint about many people, it is time for you to stop pointing at them and start looking at YOU. There are those who will find needless fault with you, to be sure, and we cannot please everyone, nor should we try. But it is always worth taking the time to check your ego at the door when you find your interactions with people to be fraught with misunderstanding. If everyone tells you your pants are blue, and you swear you put on green pants this morning, at least have the humility to look down ONCE to see if they’re right. Remember the emperor and his new clothes? The cloak of self-righteousness is a thin one indeed, and it wears thinner each time we cast it on without thought to whether or not we indeed have the right to wear it.

For my part, I have discovered that when one person is constantly injecting a level of drama and unpleasantness that is unnecessary, ONE person, to whom I did NOT give birth, it is time to let that person go their own way in peace. Some people revel in drama and excuses for poor behavior.

I choose to live in peace. I choose to be responsible for my own behavior. I choose to communicate with clarity and, when possible, with positivity, and to correct any mistakes I make when I falter in those two aims (and yes! I KNOW I falter). I choose to admit when things are my fault, but I also choose not to take on one ounce more of blame than is rightfully my own, and to part ways with people who are…well, I’ll just say who are either at different places on their journey to peace, or are on some other road altogether.

I just read an interesting reflection on the common church blessing to “Go in peace,” and how it challenges us to leave church, not just feeling good, but with the active purpose of living life in a way that brings peace to our personal lives and the world around us.  Peace is something we all claim to seek and want, and yet so many of us do things that are directly in opposition to the achievement of that, by inflicting strife on others and then, of course, the self. Peace is not elusive. Peace is not unattainable. Peace does not begin with others. Peace begins with you, inside.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. ~ Dalai Lama


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