Everyone wants peace. Communities want peace; countries want peace. The entire world craves peace.
But peace is elusive.
If everyone wants it, why is it so hard to achieve?
Too busy? Too tired? Too overwhelmed?
When I hear the word, my mind flashes to a few places: First, a person holding the iconic and universal two fingers up—a peace sign.
Second, a monk sitting on top of a mountain in solitude and silence.
While one of these carries a host of varying cultural significance, the other seems unattainable and unrealistic—not to mention it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people would freely give up all peace if the only way to get it was hiking through dense vegetation, surrounded by critters with eight legs (some with no legs), and danger all along the way, all the way to the top of a mountain that would most likely take days to traverse.
As for me, an adventure like that sounds incredibly fun. But it’s not how I seek peace. I like quiet time. I feel calm after spending time in silence, listening to the sounds around me, and having my phone not on me. Jesus modeled this kind of behavior for us, and I think it is a crucial part of finding peace on a daily basis.
I try to have a few moments of silence, just to myself, each day. That may look like 20 minutes on the porch in the morning drinking my coffee and listening to nature wake up, or it could mean turning the music off in the car and commuting in silence.
The first option is my preferred method, but the second is the easiest to accomplish on a busy day.
For me, finding peace involves some intentional time set aside; but it also means I have to decide to behave in certain ways, different from my natural posture.
The first big thing I decided to do a few years back was cut off the news. I don’t own a tv. I don’t watch news highlights. I fight the urge to swipe all the way to the right on my phone and see the daily updates; I don’t listen to any form of news on the radio or podcasts, and, for the most part, I tune out the second someone starts talking about what they heard or saw from the news.
My mind continually fights paranoia, fear and anxiety. I had no idea how much the news and the continual buzz of all the things (mostly bad) contributed to my unhealthy mental state.
So I cut it out. All of it.
This might sound intense and drastic, and you might even decide now that between cutting out all those things and a three-day hike up a mountain, the hike is the way to go for you; but I would challenge you to try it for a week… a day… a few hours even! It radically changed my life.
The other place I try to maintain a peaceful attitude is in conversations with others—especially the unpleasant ones.
This is more difficult for me in practice. In conflict, I tend to immediately start thinking of sassy responses. Occasionally they make it out of my mouth, but most of the time they remain unheard. Still, this is a mindset I have to shift away from. Now, when rapid-fire comebacks scroll through my brain, I attempt to rewire my normal response and to pray first in that moment. I stop listening for a few seconds and ask God to help me really hear what the other person says, as well as respond in a way that is helpful. Then I decide to ask myself (and them) a few questions:
- What is the best-case scenario for this conversation?
- What can I say or do to deescalate this? (if it’s gotten to that point)
- What is the other person truly trying to communicate?
- Why are they saying it?
- How do they feel?
- Why do they feel that?
- What can I do to make the situation better?
- What can they do to make the situation better?
If it’s a tough conversation (and maybe a loud one), my main goal is to find the root of the problem and work toward the best-case scenario for both of us.
I have to force myself to stop the negative thoughts and move toward a more productive line of thinking. Like actually telling myself in my head, “Okay, I need this to end in the best way possible, and that means I need to stop thinking this way.”
Being open and honest about how things make you feel, and giving space for others to do the same, really helps to cultivate a peaceful conversation. This has become a more habitual process for me than it was, and it helps me stay calm when it matters most.
For me, these three practices have aided in maintaining a peaceful perspective—physically, mentally, and spiritually:
- Find a time or place of “quiet”—ideally each day, even if only for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the negative noise around you.
- Approach difficult conversations first with prayer and a shift toward “best-case scenario” thinking.
All of these are hard to adopt all at once. I started with seeking a few quiet moments a few times a week. But if your first move is to fly to Asia, hike through treacherous terrain, and up a mountain, I want to hear all about it. 😉