What is the difference between these two words? On the surface they seem to be the same, yet when you really dive into it they are very different. For a large part of my life I have worked at being a peacekeeper. Which means, trying to make sure everyone is happy, walking on eggshells, and avoiding conflict. Keeping the peace requires you to stuff your feelings away, soft pedal, and smooth over anything that might get uncomfortable. I skirted around anything that might be controversial. I allowed others to unload on me and I did my best to take it all on with a smiling face and a bit of laughter thrown in to cover up what I was feeling inside. It became an automatic response for me. I got so good at it that I completely lost touch with how I really felt. I was keeping the peace, trying to make others happy, at all costs, but I paid a heavy price. Peace keeping to this degree leads to anger, resentment, physical illness, and losing the trust of others and yourself.
If you have grown up in an emotionally abusive environment, a neglectful home, or experienced significant negative events or traumas, peacekeeping can become your superpower. These life situations cause you to be hypervigilant and constantly aware of other people’s behavior and reactions. You can read others’ emotions and expressions very well because this helps you to predict danger and stay safe. Developing this type of sensitivity may cause you to fall prey to individuals who can manipulate you and exploit your desire to make them happy. Yet it can also cause you to be very empathetic and even diplomatic. A peacekeeper has to be very conscientious and on top of things, making it easy for them to prioritize other’s welfare over their own. It is common for a peacekeeper to avoid people and situations that are uncomfortable or controversial by dissociating or physically withdrawing. Peacekeepers can endure a lot. Peacekeeper’s are prone to creating a culture of toxic positivity. This is the belief that, no matter how dire a situation is, you should maintain a positive mindset. It supports keeping secrets, misplaced loyalty, and tolerance of unacceptable behavior all in the name of thinking positive and keeping the peace.
It is fascinating how these two words can result in such dramatic differences. I have painted a very negative perspective related to peacekeeping. Yet peace is one of our Divine rights in this life. Peace is mentioned in the King James Bible 429 times. So how do we make peace, without sacrificing ourselves?
The good news is President Nelson gave us the playbook in his talk, Peacemakers Needed, from April 2023’s general conference. After reflecting and reading this talk over and over, I have identified the following 3 ways for using your peacekeeping super powers to become a peacemaker.
First, Making Peace Starts with Developing Personal Peace – When we come from a place of personal peace it is so much easier to open our hearts and do the things, President Nelson reminded us, Christ has admonished us to do; “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” This is no easy task! But maybe we can start with ourselves and grow from there. I challenge you to read President Nelson’s talk again, through the lens of how you treat yourself. It was eye opening for me. Do you condemn, vilify, or malign yourself or do you encourage, persuade, and inspire yourself? President Nelson says “one of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.” How do you treat yourself? We often talk about the Savior’s Atonement and how it makes it possible to overcome the challenges in our life. How do you apply this principle to yourself? Partaking of the sacrament every week is an opportunity to repent and commit to doing better. It is a chance to take accountability for how you treat yourself and others. Ask for help and lean on the Savior’s Atonement.
Developing personal peace requires taking accountability for your part, being obedient, and following the commandments. Ask yourself, if your desire is to prove you are right, or if you are feeling righteous in anger and judgment? Are you competing or collaborating? Are you focused on fault finding or looking for common ground? Are you thinking “I will be kind when they are kind to me?” Take the superpower of empathy and start applying it to yourself. Invest in your healing in order to stop harboring what may have happened in the past. Allow yourself to be honest with your role and take 100% responsibility for your actions, decisions, behavior, and choices. As your personal peace improves so does your ability to support others in doing the same.
Second, Build and Inspire Trust – A peacekeeper can sometimes have blind trust. This can be dangerous. There truly are some people in the world who can’t be trusted. It is okay to protect yourself from those who have not earned your trust, just as Jesus did in many of the stories in the New Testament. President Nelson reminded us, he is not talking about peace at any price. Yet it is also important to extend trust and not be stingy with it. You can still set limits and be a loving peacemaker.
Peacekeepers often lack the ability to establish limits and adhere to them. This is where I rely on the Holy Ghost. My loving Heavenly Father knew this was a challenge for me. In my Patriarchal Blessing he blessed me that the Holy Ghost would be my companion to guide, protect and warn me of evil circumstances or individuals who do not have my best interests at heart. Man, oh man, have I had to count on this blessing. There have been many times when I have knelt in prayer to ask if my lack of trust was due to my past hurts or a warning from the Holy Ghost. I have come to understand and know the difference between these two feelings. All of us have access to the Holy Ghost and His guidance and direction in this manner.
The focus here is to use your superpower and extend trust and be trustworthy while still establishing healthy limits. Are you able to be a safe haven for people or do people fear upsetting you? When you are communicating with others, do they know you value their feelings and you are eager to hear their ideas and perspectives or are you quick to become defensive, put a positive spin on what they share, make it about you, or stop listening? The truth is, I am still working on trust and learning how to extend and build trust. I rely on Brene Brown’s advice. She uses the acronym BRAVING, because it is a brave act to truly extend trust and foster trust in others.
- B is for Boundaries. Be clear about your boundaries so others understand and respect your limits. At the same time honor and respect others’ boundaries.
- R is for Reliability. Consistently do what you say you are going to do. Make commitments and keep them.
- A is for Accountability. Own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
- V is for Vault. When people share a confidence it is like putting it in a vault. It is not to be shared with others.
- I is for Integrity. Brene refers to this as “choosing courage over comfort. It’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy.”
- N is for Non-judgment. This is allowing someone to be vulnerable without being judged.
- G is for Generosity. In relationships assume the most generous thing about the others words, intentions, and behaviors. So assume they have good intentions and check in to validate it.
I try to regularly check in on how I am doing, using this acronym, especially when I am feeling anxious or out of sorts. Along with checking in on how I am applying the acronym, I check in with God to make sure I am trusting in Him and behaving such that He can trust me.
Third, Discern and Lead in Truth and Love – Beware of Satan’s tactics. Satan is a great deceiver. This is why it can become so easy to be confused or deceived by actions clothed in keeping the peace instead of making peace. President Nelson reminds us “The Savior’s Atonement made it possible for us to overcome all evil – including contention”. He goes on to say “Those who foster contention are taking a page out of Satan’s playbook, whether they realize it or not….Contention drives away the spirit.” This is also true of contention we may not voice but feel in our hearts.
Several years ago I had a disagreement with someone I love very much. I was stuck feeling self righteous and defensive about something I had done and wanted to make them understand and see my point of view. I was hurt and angry and when we parted the tension in the air was thick. It was early in my healing journey and I didn’t know how to handle the situation. Yet, I knew I didn’t want to fall back into old patterns and behavior like, trying to smooth things over or apologize for something I didn’t do. I thought to myself, “maybe I can’t maintain this relationship, maybe it is too harmful and I have to let it go.” Yet, I knew deep down that wasn’t the answer. This was my avoidant behavior from the past kicking into gear. I was ruminating over our last conversation, rehearsing it over and over in my mind as if I could somehow change the past and make the outcome different. I knew we would have to discuss the elephant in the room at some point in order to get over this conflict. I also knew I wasn’t equipped to have the conversation at the moment. As I prayed and prayed for an answer I was prompted to be patient.
This isn’t normal behavior when keeping the peace. Peacekeepers want to fix it right now!! Yet I knew if I tried to resolve it immediately the outcome wouldn’t be positive. So I wrote a note letting the person know how much they meant to me, how important it is that we talk, and that I wanted to be in a loving and understanding space to truly hear their perspective when we discussed it. I asked if I could have some time for me to work on some things before we met. They agreed. Weeks went by and I prayed for everyone involved. I asked for help to heal the wounded part of me that was reacting so strongly, to help identify what was going on with me and heal those parts that needed my attention. I asked for my heart to be softened and for my capacity to listen and lead in love to be strengthened. Finally the day came, it was time to discuss the conflict. I was nervous, this was new territory for me. I was leaning on the Lord to support me as I prayed for courage and wisdom. We talked, I listened, I shared my views and we reconciled the difference. We didn’t come to complete agreement and I don’t know if I said all the right things or handled it perfectly. What I do know is that I was coming from a place of charity, the pure love of Christ, and I didn’t want to damage this relationship any further. The rest I had to leave in God’s hands. I can’t control what others think, feel, and do, but I can do my best to lead by example, come from a loving place, and look for ways to make peace.
We need God’s Power rooted in self confidence to be a peacemaker. This is earned through righteousness, obedience, keeping covenants, and living in alignment with His will, even when that means submitting our own. It doesn’t always feel comfortable. There will be times when peacekeeping is the best option or it may be all we can muster. That’s okay, we are not perfect. Yet, also keep in mind President Nelson’s words “the Lord will magnify our efforts beyond our loftiest imaginations. When we humble ourselves before God and pray with all the energy of our hearts, God will grant us Charity. Charity is the spiritual gift that helps us to cast off the natural man,….Charity defines a peacemaker.”
I hope this has prompted you to take pause and consider the difference between being a peacekeeper and a peacemaker. I hope it has broadened your perspective so you are more equipped to consider the options and can lovingly strive for a holier, healthier, and happier way.