I was asked to give a speech a few weeks ago at the Global March for Peace and Unity, in Los Angeles, CA, September 21, 2013. It caused me to reflect about how peace is achieved, and also how it relates to health and healthcare. I believe that we should all have choice and freedom when it comes to our healthcare. But I could write a whole post just about that. Instead, I’m going to share my speech with you. Here it is:
I guess that most of us have a desire to encourage and stand for peace throughout the world. I believe that in order to encourage our nation to promote principles of peace throughout the world, we need to understand those principles and see them at work in our own personal relationships.
I’m going to share with you some thoughts and experiences from my life, which will hopefully benefit some of you as we all try to promote peace in our own relationships, in our communities and throughout the world.
I consider myself to be a fairly peaceful person out in my community and outside the walls of my home, but inside my home can sometimes be a different story. I am a mother of 7 children, and some of them are still fairly young. Most of them have very strong personalities. So I’ve had to learn principles of peacekeeping in my home, so we could all get along and be happier. We are definitely not perfect at it, but I’ve learned a lot.
I’m a master herbalist married to an ER doctor, so I’ve had to learn how to keep peace between two opposing points of view when it comes to natural versus conventional remedies.
For a long time I thought that if I believed something was true, I should proclaim it to the world and never stop, even if it began to wear down my relationships. The more I let that happen, the less peace I had in my life. I’ve learned that relationships are more important than being right or wrong about something. And I continue being passionate about natural medicine and other things, but not at the expense of relationships, if I can help it. Now, I enjoy much more peace in my life as I continue to promote principles of health and wellness.
I want to introduce you to one of my favorite books. It’s called The Anatomy of Peace
by the Arbinger Institute. Reading this book helped me realize that I had been at war with certain people in my life over the years.
I used to be at war with my own husband over whether we should use conventional or natural remedies on our children. We argued and debated for about a year on certain topics, both of us proudly certain that our point of view was the most correct.
I realized that I needed to stop forcing my opinion about the matter. I concluded that if my thoughts were correct, they would prove themselves over time and I didn’t need to keep fighting about it with my words. I stopped pushing my opinion and talking about our conflict so much. I finally tried to let the whole thing go and leave it to God. Over time, my husband actually started bringing things up himself in agreement with my point of view. I couldn’t believe it. It made me happy that I followed that prompting. Eventually, we came to a point where we both realize the strengths and weaknesses of different types of remedies, and we just talk about things, and we usually are both fairly comfortable with the outcome of our joint decisions.
When my oldest son was eight years old, I felt he needed to start helping our family and doing more work around the house. He really resisted me. I kept trying to force my son to do things, and he did not want to do them. A task as simple as cleaning the bathroom. I wanted him to do it without ever having done it with him first. I allowed myself to become intensely bitter toward my son over time. I wanted to take away all his privileges. I wanted to punish him everyday, but guess what? He didn’t care!
Now when I look back I realize I was being fairly unreasonable. Over the years we have both argued a lot and life has been unpleasant for me and for him. I have tried to increase my love for my son, despite these challenges, and this effort has helped me get over many of the negative feelings I’ve had.
Over the past few months I have been attempting to resolve some health issues with him and my other teenage daughter. They both have a mouthful of cavities, and my daughter needs 2 root canals, which would cost $4,000. I’ve been trying to get them to take supplements and change their diet and they have been very resistant. I finally realized I was pushing too hard and I needed to let them make choices for themselves. I didn’t want to be the mean mom anymore. I’ve been trying to move to a place where I just want to sincerely help them instead of force them. It has changed our relationships for the better already.
It all begins with relationships. If we don’t have a good relationship, then we cannot reasonably expect people to listen to what we say. They have to feel that we understand their point of view before they will internalize ours. With my children, I’ve tried to listen to them more, ask them about their interests, and spend more time with them however I can. These are basic things we can do to build any relationship, even if it’s with another country.
My husband, Mike, spent a couple years in South America doing service and missionary work years ago. Over the past 8 years he has traveled back repeatedly to do more service, and expose our children to the culture there. We’ve traveled to Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Guatemala and Nicaragua to do service and have some leisure time. My husband started doing some work in Nicaragua with a specific charity based in the U.S.
When Mike went down there to work, Mike wanted to eat where the locals ate and do what they wanted to do. The employees of the charity immediately warmed up to him. They said that their boss never did those things. He always ate at Subway, and was never interested in their affairs, but only in getting a certain amount of work done in a certain amount of time. He did not seem to truly care about the people, even though he is trying to help them through his charitable organization.
Our government has been guilty of this quite often over the years. We don’t spend much time and effort as a government loving, caring and helping other countries. The majority of the time, we have mainly been concerned about positioning of our military around the world, and the pursuing of interests for our big businesses. Our foreign policy has too often been forceful, coercive, selfish and many times even downright deceitful.
How can this be changed? We may think that we are just one person and that we can not make much of a difference. But the truth is that no lasting changes can be made in the world unless we start by changing ourselves first, each of us individually. This is something that IS in our control. In fact, it is the ONLY thing in our control. We must start creating peace in our own hearts before the world can be changed.
We can change the world and bring about more peace by changing our own hearts first.
I want to talk about one way that our hearts can go to war within ourselves. The book, Anatomy of Peace, has helped me understand why and how I develop negative feelings towards others and towards the world. It teaches that when we have a sense or desire to help or serve someone else we are confronted with two choices. We can honor our desire and continue to see the other person as a human being like ourselves. When we do this, our hearts are at peace.
However, when we choose to betray our desire for goodness and service by not acting on the desire, we begin to see the other person in ways that justify our self betrayal. They become an object of blame and our hearts go to war with in ourselves. We start to view ourselves better than that person, Or we might view ourselves as a victim (as I did with my son) or we may see ourselves as being made to be bad when we want to be seen as being good. We might start viewing the other person as being in the wrong, as robbing us of peace and sometimes fix labels to them. For instance, I would label my son as a “slacker, or lazy.” We may have feelings of anger, depression, Bitterness and self-justification. We start viewing the world as being unfair, unjust, burdensome and against us. We become trapped inside a box of negative thinking.
So now, when I start to feel these feelings I try to catch myself. I try to trace back to my own actions, something I could’ve done to make a situation better, for example, giving more encouragement or praise or speaking with a kind tone. I try to remember when I made a choice to not do something good for someone else. Perhaps I didn’t want to listen, or help them with a job, or I didn’t want to take them somewhere, or help them get what they needed.
It can be very hard. Sometimes it takes a lot of patience, time, effort and work to do all those little things that I can do, for my family or those around me. But, doing it is what gives my heart peace. When I think about what I am going to improve my behavior, then I don’t dwell on other negative feelings that make me unhappy. I am able to get outside of the box of negative thinking.
I want to share with you four ways to recover inner clarity and peace, and get out of that box of negative thinking. First of all, we need to look for signs of the box such as blame, justification, generalization, self-righteousness etc. We have to recognize these signs.
Secondly, we need to find a place out of the box to be our reference. This can be a peaceful relationship we have, a memory, a peaceful activity that we love or a peaceful place we can think about. Immersing ourselves in a different, peaceful setting can often take us to a different vantage point.
This allows us to do the third step, which is ponder the situation anew from a different perspective. When we do this, we are now in a situation where we can think differently and ask ourselves some serious questions like, what are this persons or People’s challenges, trials, burdens and pains? We can ask, how am I, or some group of which I am a part, adding to these challenges trials, burdens and pains? We can ask ourselves, what ways have we or our group or country, neglected or mistreated this person or group or country? We can ask ourselves, in what ways are our boxes of negative thinking, such as “I’m better then you, I deserve more, that’s worse then what I do, or I must be seen as,” …how are these boxes obscuring the truth about others and interfering with potential solutions? We should ask ourselves… what am I feeling I should do for this person or group? What could I do to help?
After asking these hard questions, then we are in a position to do the fourth step and stay out of our box of negative thinking. At this point we need to act upon what we have discovered and do what we are feeling we should do.
I want to share with you something called the peacemaking pyramid (from Anatomy of Peace). When we’re trying to effect change and others, whether in another person, a group at work, or in another country, often times we are trying to correct them. We are dealing with things that are going wrong. I want to share an example of this from my own life. I spent a couple years trying to build a business online, and consequently I did not spend a lot of time with my family. I figured out ways to manage our home and provide most of what my children needed, but I was not present myself most of the time. At one point I realized, I was doing a lot of correcting of my children and it was getting very frustrating for all of us. I found myself overreacting towards my children quite often.
I was always trying to fix things after a problem had surfaced, instead of spending time preventing problems in the first place. This is called helping things go right. It takes a lot of time and effort and I just wasn’t giving that to my family. At the foundation of this pyramid is where we obtain a heart at peace and get out of the box of negative thinking. The next most important thing, which is the next step up, is building relationships. This means improving the relationship in which we are struggling and also building relationships with those around that person or country. This is where we should be spending most of our time if we truly desire to have peace.
The next thing we can do to help things go right is to “Listen and Learn.” If we listen and learn from others, so we understand their point of view, then we are in a much better position to teach and communicate. Criticizing and correcting others is what we should be spending the least amount of time doing, because it’s not going to be effective if we are not doing these other things first.
So, as a mother, I should focus first on establishing a heart at peace within myself by getting out of my box of negative thinking. Then I need to be sure to nurture and build strong relationships with those closest to me. I must listen and learn from my children what they are thinking and what they need, and only then am I in a position to truly have influence on them. Only then can I teach and communicate, and I will find that I have to correct or discipline my children MUCH less often.
As a country, we ought not to dictate to the world the rules we think they should all follow, especially when we don’t have strong relationships with other countries. We should try to listen and learn from our many neighbors before we force our opinions on them. We should value our relationships with other countries more than our business or financial interests. We need get out of our box of thinking we are better than everyone else, to view other countries as equals, and important members of our world. If we were to acknowledge others in this way, so many hostilities would diminish.
Corrie Ten Boom wrote a story called The Hiding Place,
in which she tells of rescuing Jews during the time of Hitler and for doing so, she was thrown in a concentration camp with her sister. She endured the worst of living conditions, witnessed awful brutality, and eventually lost the life of her sister.
She said, “Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings…It’s something we make inside ourselves.”
Instead of harboring bitterness towards the Nazi soldiers who were her captors, she chose to ask God to help her forgive them. She chose not to let the circumstances of her life determine how she would feel about the world and those around her. She made a conscious decision to have peace in her heart, and to later promote peace throughout the world by sharing her story and encouraging others to forgive.
In the words of Sting, “Let your pain, be my sorrow. Let your tears, be my tears too. Let your courage be my motto, let your North star be true.”
In closing, I want to challenge each of you to create peace in your own heart by thinking outside the box of negativity, and proactively seeking for good feelings between those who have wronged you or who will at some point bring trouble to your life. We can choose how we react to our neighbors, to our government and to the world. We can start with ourselves by having hearts of peace.
In the words of Mother Teresa, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
It’s great advice!