We all want peace in our lives, right? This sounds like a no-brainer, but the truth is that many of us have ambivalence about peace. We have all sorts of preconceived notions about peace. For instance, a devout Christian friend once divulged to me that she wasn’t wild about going to heaven, because she didn’t relish the idea of endless singing by celestial choirs. To clear up some misconceptions about peace:
Myth: Peace is boring.
Reality: Many people become attached to the surge of hormones accompanying anxiety and may even initiate conflict in relationships in order to stay “pumped up”. True, peace does not give you the adrenalin rush (and eventual crash) that short-term or chronic stress does. However, stress hormones break us down physically, emotionally, and mentally over time. The better choice is to seek inner harmony or equilibrium, which can provide you with a steady supply of energy.
Myth: Peace is passive.
Reality: Actually, doing nothing when action is called for often leads to anxiety, rather than peace. Our minds can conjure up all sorts of dire scenarios, whereas simply doing the next right thing, as guided by our inner wisdom, tends to bolster our inner peace over time.
Myth: Peace is the absence of difficulty.
Reality: As long as we’re alive, we’ll be dealing with challenges, both around us and within us. Change is part of life, and dealing successfully with change can be difficult – however, doing so helps us develop character. As Carroll Bryant said, “Getting old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.” When we try to manage our external affairs and our emotions with an attitude of acceptance, we foster our growth process. We can believe that the difficulty is working for our good, however uncomfortable we may feel at the time, as long as we work for the good of all involved.
Myth: Peace must take place in solitude.
Reality: It’s possible to remain internally calm while in a sea of people. As you have undoubtedly already experienced, it’s also possible to feel extremely anxious while alone. One component of peace is the willingness to become empty – to let go of our whirling thoughts, preconceived notions, and powerful emotions, in order to become receptive to what the current situation is asking of us. This is possible no matter who we’re with or where we are. This is the opposite of being “full of ourselves”.
Myth: Peace is found only in a serene, gorgeous place of nature.
Reality: While spending time in a forest, at the beach, or on a mountain can be soothing, the key is to bring a sense of serenity into our everyday lives. Rather than seeking to satiate our senses through taking in endless information in the form of TV, the Internet, radio, gossip, etc., we can remind ourselves to take a few deep breaths and enter into our own personal silence.
Myth: Peace needs to wait until I Get Everything Done.
Reality: There will always be something left to do. If it’s not “official” work, it’s the milk we need to pick up at the store, the dog we need to feed, the car we need to wash – it will always be something. In our achievement-oriented society, we have become “human doings” rather than “human beings”. However, it’s possible to set some of the items on our to-do list aside temporarily, or continue with our activities while maintaining our intention to stay in peace internally.
Myth: Peace needs to wait until I “figure everything out”.
Reality: This line of reasoning is often an excuse for procrastination. Try as we might, we can’t map out our entire lives without practical experimentation. As we take constructive action, we gain clarity, generally not the other way around.
Myth: Ingesting some substance will bring me peace.
Reality: Nope. While alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, or excess food can definitely alter our mood in the short run, in the long run we’ll still need to deal with our uncomfortable emotions. Facing and accepting our feelings, and learning that we will live to tell the tale, are key to genuine peace.
Myth: Another person will bring me peace.
Reality: Loving and supportive relationships are among the most precious things in life. However, we need to generate our peace from within, from discovering and developing our unique gifts, accepting ourselves, and taking responsibility (“the ability to respond”) for our actions and our attitudes, rather than looking to another person as the source of our power and wisdom. If we believe ourselves to be leaning excessively on a loved one for a sense of serenity, we may even need to separate from them (temporarily or permanently), in order to build our internal reservoir of peace.
Myth: I need to have it all together before finding peace.
Reality: We will never be perfect. We’re human, and imperfection is part of the deal. We can certainly strive to be more loving, kind, courageous, patient, etc., but it’s by accepting our imperfections and the inevitability of missing the mark (the literal term for “sin”) from time to time that we learn forgiveness and find peace.