17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:17-18, NKJV
What does it mean to be peaceable?
First, let’s backtrack a little. For there to be peace, there must first be a conflict, right? We can’t truly understand or discuss peace until we experience and understand it’s opposite. So, inherent in the study of being a “peacemaker” is the understanding and knowledge of its opposite.
What is the absence of peace? Conflict? War? Internal or external turmoil?
Dictionary.com says the antonym of peace is “disturbance” or “insecurity”. From thefreedictionary.com, we infer the antonyms of peace could be: the presence of war; the presence of quarrels and disagreements; public disorder; or an internal lack of serenity. Any one of these definitions adequately describes the opposite of peace.
As I read the above passage from James, I consider my perceptions of what it means to be a peacemaker. My view of a peacemaker for most of my life has been someone who was calm and seemed to know the right words to speak or the right thing to do in tense or difficult moments, to assuage potentially threatening people or situations. My perception was such a person could calm rough waters and diffuse tempers with the perfect blend of personality, temperament, and words.
While at first glance nothing is amiss with this view, and there are people who possess such a gift of tempering situations that need softening, I realize that my visualization of a peacemaker did not actually include a resolution to matters of conflict, but simply the management of them.
In practice, in my own life, I have allowed sizzling situations to quiet down in an attempt to prevent escalation and to “keep the peace”, but then not address or confront the deeper issues that resulted in the conflict in the first place. Does this reflect the true heart of a peacemaker? Is “keeping the peace” demonstrative of true peace-keeping?
The answer is “no”. I am reading a book called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. I’m only in the first chapter, but already, I’ve come to realize that a peacemaker is not someone who simply just “keeps the peace”. A peacemaker is neither a doormat nor an instigator of conflict or turmoil.
A true peacemaker, rather, addresses difficult issues in a Biblically appropriate and loving way. This means not sweeping issues under the rug, which has been my tendency. This tendency, in large part, is learned from my past. Sugar-coating, sweeping under the rug, denying, etc., are behaviors that do not result in true peace because the underlying source of the conflict still persists.
Being a peacemaker, I am learning, means addressing issues head-on. It may, at first glance, not sound much like being a peacemaker, and it can feel anywhere from slightly difficult to extremely uncomfortable to confront a challenging person or situation. A peacemaker is not quiet! No, she will be making some noise, but it is with the motivation of reconciliation and resolution.
One of the reasons I have not been a peacemaker in the true sense is that I lacked the skills and knowledge to actually put this into practice. I would often not directly address the sources of conflict, preferring to let the conflict die down. I didn’t know how to confront the issue in a practical sense.
Another reason I did not confront issues in the past was because of fear: fear of failure, fear of retaliation from the other party, fear of not being understood, or fear of losing the relationship. Allowing these fears to dictate my actions did not result in greater peace, but greater insecurity as they did not resolve the conflict.
If asked, many of us would say we love peace or that we love the idea of peace. But not addressing issues leaves a varying amount of turmoil still brewing. True peace results in a place of rest, stillness, and security. Addressing core issues leads to that resting place. Even if it results in a situation we would not choose or prefer, a resolution at a deep level results in peace.
Being a peacemaker?
It means making some difficult choices.
It entails having some uneasy conversations.
It involves taking some risks.
But the end result of addressing central issues?
The end result is peace.