"What Makes For Peace"
Real peace implies something deeper than polite acceptance of those who are different. It means meeting those who are different, appreciating them, and their culture, and creating bonds of friendship with them. Family, culture, religion, community, and friendship are all realities that are vital for human growth. But we need to learn how not to remain enclosed or imprisoned in such groups. We have to cross boundaries and meet others who are different. Coexistence is a foundation, and it is important, but peace is something much deeper. To create peace we have to go further than just saying hello. We have to discover who the other person is and reveal who we are. As we listen to and really meet one another, we begin to see the work of God in the beauty and value, in the deepest personhood, of those who are different.
In his book I and Thou, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber speaks of relationship as the treasure of the human person; he distinguishes the "it" from the "thou." There are things and there are people, individual people. He reminds us that a society that encourages the accumulation of things--things to do, things to possess, things to look at, to buy, to throw away, etc.--risks undervaluing and forgetting the treasure of personal, heart-to-heart relationships. It is through relationships, through love, that we are fulfilled....
Personal relationship implies tenderness and kindness. The opposite of love is hardness of the heart or insensitivity; it is indifference to others and to what they think, feel, and need. It is to avoid meeting them and to erect defense mechanisms. Fear encloses people within their systems of protection. Peace is not just absence of war and it is not just living alongside others, ignoring them, indifferent to them, or avoiding them. Peace is getting to know each other, appreciating each other, seeing each other's value, and receiving from each other. It flows from a communion of hearts in which we discover that we are truly brothers and sisters belonging to a common humanity. This communion of hearts is not just sentimental; it does not mean merely sheltering amidst a friendly group. It implies that together, as a community and friendly group. It implies that together, as a community and as friends, we are committed to working for peace and justice. Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires work--hard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss--loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.
One thing I struggle with in life is the judgment of others, whether it is coming from me or from other people. It's almost inevitable as it seems to be ingrained in our human minds. But I've come to realize, it's OK to judge. It's what you do with those judgments that actually matters. Do you dwell on them? Do you feed them with more and more judgments? Do you realize how you are reacting to those judgments and actively alter your behavior? Do you leave your mind open to the possible realities that may overturn those judgments? Do you love everyone despite those judgments and realities? No, we are not going to agree with everyone on everything because that's life. That's what comes with the gift of free will. Therefore, if we accept our personal gift of free will we must also recognize that everyone else is accepting that same gift and using it how they see fit. It's not going to be how you see fit because it is their choice just as it is your choice. This is just the first step though. No matter what a person chooses to do with their gift, they were beautifully created by God and will always be loved by Him. Knowing He loves every person on this earth is enough reason for me to love them as well, despite any differences in opinion or life choices. We must overcome our human instincts to dwell on judgments and see people as less than human, whether they are your best friend, mom or dad, complete stranger, criminal, etc. We were all formed with the same equality when we were given the gift of free will and thus the ability to sin. Let us then use our gift to honestly and faithfully pursue this peace. Let us accept each person as human with a story of their own that we should be clamoring to hear so that our judgments may be made new with truth.
"There is no way of knowing what a particular person's journey has truly been and where the person is now until we earn the right to hear his or her story and then listen carefully and prayerfully."