The comment was just made in passing during a conversation with some friends around the dinner table. It was such a simple statement that I almost missed it, and my brain needed several seconds to process and recognize how profound it actually was. A young mother was talking about the commitment her husband, 4- and 6-year-old daughters, and she had made to work at being a peacemaker throughout the summer. No matter what the situation was, if a conflict or disagreement came up, the first choice and action were to find common ground, be kind, and find a solution to the situation. She said that it didn’t happen 100% of the time, but it did create awareness. She then added the statement that inspired this newsletter, “There are no unintentional consequences in peacemaking.”
WOW! Go ahead and read that statement again and then stop for as long as it takes to comprehend the depth of wisdom in it. Is there anything else we can actually say that about? A commitment to keeping the peace in any situation will always produce a positive result, a collaborative effort, and some form of harmony, whether it is within a family or between co-workers in a company. Perhaps another way to comprehend the incredible power in this statement is to consider a few opposite strategies that families or team members may choose to use. Think about what happens when somebody chooses to be a troublemaker, a gossiper, sarcastic, passive aggressive or acting as if they can only be right if they prove the other person wrong. The list of possible outcomes that come from these strategies is absolutely endless. The consequences that might result from one or a combination of these strategies could range from a lasting grudge or conflict to the loss of self-esteem to unsupported actions that lead to complacency, apathy, and missed opportunities or a variety of combinations of all these things. The unintentional consequences of these actions create an unstable atmosphere creating anxiety, stress, and conflict. Peacemaking, however, creates stability where things can be accomplished and lives can be enhanced.
If the benefits of peacemaking are so valuable, then why would it not be the first choice in every situation? To find the answer to this question, let's go back to something our wise mother said, “It didn’t work 100% of the time, but it did create awareness.” The psychologist Carl Jung states, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” The elusive attribute of self-awareness is to be able to recognize our strengths and weaknesses and understand how they impact our attitudes, actions, and who we are being in the moment or in any situation. If we unconsciously react with anything other than a collaborative, win-win approach, then we are leaving the outcome to chance. We are only hoping things will work out as opposed to being intentional in taking the right action with the purpose of making things work out for everyone. Could it be that peacemaking is hindered by our human nature, or is it possible that we actually enjoy the role or habit of being one or all of the following characters?
The Victim - Choosing not to honor our commitment of being a leader, team player, or great parent by choosing to dwell on the negative things that have happened to you that seem to justify your actions and attitude.
The Bully – Putting on a hard and demanding façade to cover up low self-esteem and lack of self-worth that tries to dominate every situation with unreasonable demands, deadlines, and worn-out excuses that keep any blame for lack of results from being directed toward us.
The Devil’s Advocate – Being plagued with yeah-but-itis to the point that you extinguish any hope of progress or improvement and bring about indecisiveness and failure to follow through.
The Liar – We may choose to stretch the truth as a way of justifying our unwillingness to collaborate or share the credit. The biggest lie is to ourselves, however, when we talk ourselves out of being a peacemaker because we need to build ourselves up by seeking the recognition of an accomplishment.
The Troublemaker – We masterfully engage the above strategies and spend our time complaining about things not getting better as opposed to taking action to make things better. We will spend more time talking about a person than talking with that person to find a solution and we relish in being able to say, “I told you so,” confusing that statement as a sign of intelligence rather than ignorance.
Perhaps it would also be beneficial to give thought to what peacemaking is not. For example, it is not talking someone into your way of thinking without an argument. That seems to be more of getting a concession from someone, and when someone concedes, it usually means they did not experience a win. It is not seeing ourselves as the wisest person in the room and thinking if everyone else would just see our way of thinking, all the problems would be solved. That seems more of a process of exalting ourselves over others, beginning with the assumption that others are not nearly as smart or as insightful as you. It is hard to get a win-win situation when we make someone feel less adequate or qualified to think. Being a peacemaker is being willing to address a problem or opportunity with a sense of humility and a servant's attitude that will draw others in for the purpose of finding the best solution that creates a win-win not only for the current situation, but it will make others more likely to engage with us on future opportunities.
Let’s go back to the concept of awareness. Whether we are consciously or unconsciously using the strategies above and lack the self-awareness to understand the consequences that may come from our actions, we need to know that someone is recognizing them. It may be a child or spouse who is watching and unknowingly takes on some of the same negative attributes that become their own habits, producing unbeneficial outcomes for them and others. It also may be those we work with who choose to avoid interaction with us because of our tendency to hinder progress rather than create it. It may be those we serve or work for who recognize they have choices available to them that eliminate us from an opportunity or our job. Our only hope is to be self-aware when we are using one of these strategies and recognize that we are leaving our results and future open to fate and consequences that can be devastating.
Imagine the confidence, self-esteem, leadership ability and career results that await when we choose the path of the peacemaker. When there are no unintentional consequences or surprises, we naturally can live a less stressful life that allows our best self to be ever present.
One more thing to imagine is the legacy you and I can leave by being the peacemaker and having the courage to take action that will make a difference. Hold up a mirror, become aware of the positive attributes you have, and go to work . . . making peace!