10 Ways to Make Peace When the World is at War
I know what you're thinking...
Oh no, not another post about this mess! (Yep)
What could she possibly say that so many others haven't already said? (Hopefully something helpful)
What's her political angle? (none)
She's supporting Black people so she must not support cops! (The idea that we must choose one over the other shows what a deeply-rooted problem we have)
Whether you hold one of the above perspectives or have a different view entirely, I hope you care enough about making peace to read on.
I am not in tears very often, but this past week I've been walking around in a stupor, with a bruised heart and leaky tear ducts, asking:
How did we get here?
How can I help?
The fact that these answers are not immediately clear says a lot about the shoes I'm walking in. White. Middle class. Advantaged. (This is where many conservatives (i.e. me) tune out. I dare you to read on.)
Unless we've "done the work" to learn about the unique experiences of people of color, we're essentially moving through life with a pair of virtual reality goggles strapped on.
I. Am. Guilty.
I don't hate myself nor do I hate my white middle-class brothers and sisters. I do, however, hate that becoming an anti-racist--not simply a benign bystander--requires more work than I've committed myself to in the past forty-plus years.
On Tuesday morning, I woke up with a churning stomach, a burning desire to DO SOMETHING, and one thought:
"I need to ask my Black (African-American?) friends what to do!"
I understood just enough to know that this was a bad idea. Black people are not responsible for correcting my ignorance.
Still, I charged forward, direct messaging several of my Instagram friends hoping they would not lambaste me for using the wrong words, crossing a forbidden line, adding a personal insult to a national injury.
I needn't have worried.
Though weary, each friend received my question with the kindness and fervor of a master teacher.
Between my peacemaking bent (thoroughly Enneagram 9) and my friends' life expertise, I've learned a few things about meaningful reconciliation. However meager the offering, I pray that these bits of wisdom mark the beginning of the long path to healing.
10 Ways to Make Peace When the World is at War
Every single friend I spoke with put prayer at the top of the list. Talk to God. Ask for healing and reconciliation for our nation and world. Seek forgiveness for not speaking out when you had the opportunity or for contributing to the problem. Request God's guidance in moving forward.
2. Examine your heart
Become a student of your own biases. What do your thoughts tell you about the messages you received growing up? Are these messages true or false? How do they contribute to injustice? Ask God to reveal your blind spots.
3. Don't pick sides
We live in a world full of causes constantly clamoring for our personal endorsement. Pick group A? Group B is bad. Pick group C? Group D is full of idiots.
In the current political climate, it's hard to believe that "picking sides" is not listed in The Ten Commandments. (It's not. I checked.)
Picking sides makes us too prideful to consider another's viewpoint.
Picking sides polarizes us.
Picking sides slams the door on working together toward peace.
Not picking sides does not mean that we can't have our own viewpoints. Instead, it means that we recognize the value of other humans' perspectives.
Sheriff Christopher R. Swanson of Genesee County, Mich., right, posed for a photo as he marched with protesters against police brutality on Saturday. Credit...Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press
4. Embrace Humility
Recognize that we are novices in this world's diverse classroom. We have much to learn from people who have different life experiences than we do.
Simply listening while someone share's his/her unique perspective is a gift that communicates, "I care. I want to learn. Help me understand."
6. Refrain from rhetoric
Brood of vipers. Whitewashed tombs. Hypocrites. Jesus is the only human being who gets a pass on name-calling (and he did it so well!).
He encourages the rest of us to show love through speaking one-on-one to the person who offends us. (See Matthew 18:15).
Imagine what would happen if everyone stopped hurling insults and, instead, followed Paul's recipe to always fill our conversations with grace and season them with salt.
7. Stop generalizing
One teacher friend lamented the pressure she feels to represent all Black people. For example, if she shows up late to work because (like me) she is always late, she fears that people will generalize that all Black people tend to be late. If she expresses anger at a staff meeting, will everyone think that all Black people have a short fuse?
You get the idea. It's an exhausting experience and not something to which White people can relate. Don't be a part of the problem by generalizing about individuals in any ethnic group (Check your preconceived notions at the door).
8. Take responsibility
A few years ago, we invited Scott and Pam (not their real names) over for a campfire. An hour or so in, Pam began complaining about her White daughter dating a Black man:
I just don't see how it could work out. I mean, I'm fine with him, but our extended family will never accept him. And what if they have kids!?
On the inside, I was seething, but I said nothing. Sure, we've not kept company with Scott and Pam since that time, but passivity on my part has not exactly propelled the wheels of justice forward.
At the perfect moment, I shirked my responsibility to stand up for justice -- and my fellow human beings. I suspect Jesus and I will be viewing this scene together on the big screen one day as I enter heaven. I'll be looking for a bag to cover my head.
9. Cultivate friendships with people who don't look like you
A new command I give you: Tolerate one another. As I have tolerated you, so you must tolerate one another.
Can you imagine if the above had been Jesus' commandment in John 13:34?
Here are Jesus' real words:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
The Civil Rights Act superseded all local and state laws requiring segregation 56 years ago, yet we continue to live in mostly White or Black neighborhoods and attend such churches and schools. If we're honest, most Americans still live within the boundaries of powerful invisible lines. Tolerating each other.
The only way to build bridges of not just tolerance, but love and friendship, is to intentionally cross those lines. And considering the real fears that many people of color feel when entering into mostly White spaces, it is White people who must take the first steps.
10. Remember George Floyd (and the lessons) after the media machine has forgotten
A common complaint of my Black friends is of our fickle pursuit of justice. We march and hold signs when the cameras are on and go back to our (literally) whitewashed lives when the news cycle is over.
We must develop the wisdom and stamina to pursue truth and righteousness for the long haul. We must make becoming an "anti-racist" a lifelong learning process. We must chase after equality for everyone as if our very lives and livelihoods depend on it...because our fellow human beings' do.
Until next time.
Your hope cheerleader,