Peace is the only battle worth waging. Albert Camus
Life is all but simple, isn’t it? Every where we turn, there is an unexpected curve ball, people that are supposed to love us hurt us deeply, and just like that, we’re knocked off track (with the scrapes and bruises to show for it) and our peace has vanished.
We all have a story to tell – and for many of us, those heartaches we can’t help but carry with us ripple into our future and syphon every ounce of hope, day by day, until subconsciously we decide to forfeit a joyful, peaceful life that was originally meant for us. We eventually tolerate living a mediocre life of defeat and even get suspicious when things seem to go well for us. This was me, anyway.
My world and normalcy as I knew it crashed and burned right in front of me on February 17, 2013, and Ground Zero continued to burn wildly for many months following (my story, raw and uncut, coming soon). As much as I want to regret the hurt people I loved and trusted caused me, I am thankful for every ounce of pain that swallowed me whole during that desolate time in my life. I have always been almost inappropriately open about my life and the people in it, but opening myself up to the world about the pain I endured throughout this season of my life hurt bad—even for me.
I have learned a lot in my life about friendship, forgiveness, and other things as they pertain to Life 101. But one thing I never knew in any capacity was PEACE. The peace and joy I have today did not come easily. Peace came after walking gruelingly through an unquenchable fire and putting my broken, barely-beating heart on display for the whole world to see, including those who hurt me irreparably.
There are people in my life I considered like family – people I loved and trusted with every fiber of my being that I never thought I would go a day without seeing or talking to –that I may never see or speak to again. People, who, for many years, stamped my life with both good and bad memories, and in many ways have molded me into the person I am today. Some removed themselves and some I made the brave decision to remove from my everyday life. Like peace, setting healthy boundaries was foreign to me prior to this stormy season. Some days it makes me sad and I find myself missing some of these people and pondering fond memories made, but most days, I look up and smile, and know that this is, in large part, why I now live in peace.
If you are reading this and find yourself wondering why you don’t have or why you’ve never had peace, don’t worry. I am just learning what it is like to live in peace at 28. I realize 28 may be young to many of you, however I have already exposed myself and my marriage in ways no woman should ever have to. But if it means you can find the joy and peace I have, then I count it a unique privilege to share my story with you.
Again, peace did not come easy. It comes at a price, and it’s all about how much you’re willing to pay. For me the price was weighty, but the price of forfeiting peace, in my opinion, was much higher and it was simply a price I could not afford.
Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.
So what does living in peace involve? How do you pursue peace and keep it for yourself? Allow me to explain what worked for me.
1. Expose yourself. Peace simply does NOT come, in any form, without living in complete and total truth – truth about yourself, truth about your life, and truth about others. For me, peace came once I was cut so deeply, that nobody could hurt me because everything that was sacred to me, including gaping emotional wounds and pain inflicted on me by others, was on public display. The best part about being so completely vulnerable is that nobody can hurt you because you’ve already done what they may aim to do — expose you.
Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. There is no greater feeling than literally letting go of the epidemic of pleasing people and caring about what they think. We are all human and we all endure heartaches and trials. Nobody gets through this life unscathed, and nobody gains anything from pretending they have it all together. Just take off the mask (it’s not a good look for you, anyway) – people who are open and honest about their lives have peace. You can’t heal what you don’t acknowledge as truth and fact. It’s simple, really. Oftentimes, those who live a lie are the only ones who believe it (and you don’t want to look as stupid as they do, do you?). And in terms of the mask, I have found that once people “clean up” everything going on on the “inside” they look much, much better on the outside. And unless you can afford a lifetime supply of Botox (which seems to work for some), you may as well start unpacking all of your baggage instead of leaving it under your eyes. In a nutshell, you can’t have peace if you refuse to live in truth.
2. Embrace confrontation. I’ve always been an honest person. I hate lies now and I hated lies then. Maybe this is a result of being lied to so many times throughout my life. In any case, my blunt but sincere honesty often outcasted me; and ironically enough, it happened most often in the “church” I worked for and practically grew up in. I often saw things I knew were wrong, and when the Holy Spirit tugged at my heart to bring those situations to the powers that be (well, were would now be the operative word), I was consistently reminded that I was “judgmental,” “critical,” and even that I just “thought I was better than” people. Over time, I came to believe these lies about myself and my inner advocate for truth and all things that were right was eventually stifled by my superficial desire to be liked and accepted. I didn’t feel like being ridiculed and so I became one of the “dead” fish that went with the flow of things.
What was missing from my years in “ministry” was that nobody ever wanted to confront anything. Men and women were cheating on their spouses with other men and women on leadership, “friends” were more appropriately named as homewreckers (mine especially), and any wrongdoing that was ever exposed, usually not on purpose, was quickly brushed under the rug or denied, many times in the form of staff meetings or a church service. It was always encouraged that we “mind our business” or “focus on ourselves” because it’s what “God would have us do” (welcome to Cult Life 101). Speaking of any such scandals classified you as a “gossiper” or “slander whore” (how the Bible supposedly translates the word “gossiper” in Greek — but now I wonder, is “gossiper” even in the Bible?). This skewed and tainted way of life was never healthy and it was never right. Even worse, it was never Biblical. Ultimately, it transformed me, and hardly for the better.
What I later came to grasp — once my moral compass began to point North again — was that when you love someone, you confront them. You realize that you care more about that person’s wellbeing than temporarily offending them. You care more about preventing a potentially hazardous situation than letting someone you love ruin their life. I was trained to believe confrontation was an act of rebellion that was frowned upon — but the truth is, we as humans depend on it. We need it and don’t even realize it.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you should confront someone or something, and you have that uneasy feeling in your stomach that makes you want to throw up at the thought of confronting them, it’s a good sign that you probably should go with it. Confrontation doesn’t feel good in the moment, but good will always come out of it – if it is rooted in kindness and love. You could save someone, and someday they will thank you for being the friend they needed.
If you know of or witness wrongdoing taking place, do everyone a favor and confront those involved! If you see something that is wrong taking place and you standby and do nothing, you are selfish, and you are a coward — period. If you’re more worried about being “liked” or “avoiding drama” (this excuse bothers me the most) than confronting a person or bad situation, you have no spine, and you should get one by following the words you’re reading. Nobody respects someone without a backbone, anyway. Perhaps you can you tell I’ve been scorned by many people I thought loved me, who never confronted situations that eventually badly hurt me.
As I mentioned, a good result will always come from confrontation when done in kindness and love, but it may not happen immediately. Truly confronting situations may result in the loss of a relationship, but what you will come to realize is that you’re better off without friends or family who don’t respect your opinion and have no desire to rectify irresponsible or hurtful actions. When you’re confronting someone who never admits they’re wrong or someone who refuses to face reality (denial), don’t expect it to end with you both skipping down the street holding hands. But why would you want to? Even without the skipping, you’ll be out of breath just from dealing with the added stress they bring to your life. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Erase toxic people from your life (as often as necessary). Almost always, when you put the first two points in action, Number Three will take care of itself. When you live in truth and embrace confrontation, toxic people will fall right off of the map that is your life. But in the event that a toxic person makes it past those two points, consistently reevaluate your life and the people you let in it.
Protect yourself and your peace by being vigilant about bad company, which does, in fact, corrupt good character.
Do the people in your life live in truth, or do they lie to you to make you happy? Do they add stress to your life or is their presence a peaceful one? Do they discourage or encourage you? Do they take responsibility for their actions and value your opinion? Do you feel comfortable being open and honest with them without fear of being judged or ridiculed? Do they care about you enough to confront you and tell you the truth (as we know, it goes both ways)? There are so many questions that should be asked when it comes to evaluating the people you allow into your personal life. Your life and your loved ones are sacred — think twice about what and whom you expose them to. Don’t make the mistake I did and allow any and everyone into your life so closely that they take advantage of your kindness and trust, leaving you blindsided in the end (to all my lifelong friends who warned me of this because you’re freaks of nature with weirdly accurate intuition or maybe just halfway decent character judgment, I know — you told me so — and I will be forever grateful for your love as it involved confronting me when it didn’t necessarily feel good for you).
As always, I can’t write about something or give advice I haven’t followed myself. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have peace, and I have it because I did these three things. I don’t know what the future has in store, but I do know no matter what I face, I have done everything in my power to ensure I have a peaceful, joyful life with the people I love and who truly love me (and show it with their actions) and that makes the things in life that I cannot control much easier to deal with. Love is an action word and if someone’s actions are not matching up with their words, they will strip as much peace from your life and your soul as you will allow. What you tolerate (or don’t stand up for), you authorize.
Peace is a pursuit worth chasing — it is worth more than being accepted because you conform to what others insist you should do and be, and thinking you’re happy because you force smiles on Instagram and refuse to acknowledge the truth. I know, because I’ve been there, but I refuse to go back to that place. It looks good on the outside, but it’s falling apart on the inside, and for the first time in my life, I’m not. :)
Here’s a little glimpse of Peace personified in my life this summer: