"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Listening Into Peace

by Micky Wolf


If peace is a state of tranquility…and peace is said to exist in the absence of opposing forces, otherwise described as conflict…then I believe it follows that our wherewithal to ‘be accepting’ is foundational to living in the kind of peace most of us long for—personally, within our families, in our communities and in our world.

Here’s why. 

Peaceful people understand that being authentically accepting
 is to honor and respect the other

People who are truly accepting of others and self do not mindlessly let anything and everything into their being, or into their world. Nor do they blindly receive [accept] everything they hear or see. What peaceful people understand is that trying to eliminate the opposing forces is not the way to true peace. How many times have we experienced the truth that opposites attract, in nature, science and divinely ordered human interaction? Our goal then, in being accepting, is to allow the opposites to be seen and heard as a means to obtaining the desired peace.

Peaceful people who live in authentic acceptance
 also know it is a far cry from its imitator, tolerance

Too often we believe being tolerant is a virtue when in truth it can be an attitude and way of thinking more likely to fuel behaviors that smack of sublimation and condescension. To sublimate is to want to make you over into my image. Furthermore, most of us certainly know there is nothing redeeming or healthy about being patronized or made to feel inferior by another who, in whatever way, believes themselves to be superior to everyone else. For example: I will accept that you are angry about A, B, or C so that we might discover what upsets you, however, I will not tolerate your verbal abuse or physical attacks as a way to validate or justify why you are angry.

People who are truly accepting are those rare folks who see acceptance as the opening of a door that says, in effect, “come let us sup together—listen intentionally, ponder, and exchange ideas, concepts, visions, hopes and dreams—and then let us choose actions that will positively and peacefully befit what we have learned through that process about one another and ourselves.”

Authentic acceptance is…listening into the heart of the other

Trying to totally eliminate the noise in order to achieve peace is a waste of energy. However, making a commitment to reducing the volume and the intensity is a good first step. The irony of this is that the very thing we fear or disdain the most—allowing the other person to vent without interruption—may be the most meaningful choice we can make. 

We also need to be aware of our body language. How many times have we felt judged or rejected—for all intent and purpose unaccepted—simply as a consequence of another’s rolling eyes, fidgeting about, or protracted, breathy sighs? 

Being willing and open to listening to the other person or group is so foundational to the art of peacemaking that revered spiritual guides have reminded us for centuries that our Creator chose to give us two ears and one mouth, yet how often do we occupy space and time as if our ears were in place only to facilitate the formation of our thoughts that we might further speak?

I catch myself falling into these patterns too often—yet I know when I choose to intentionally listen by accepting you as you are, I learn much, I feel more deeply—your words, your story, enrich and expand my understanding of life, of being human, of the Divine, more than I ever thought possible. 

Acceptance is not…lukewarm, indifferent, or without form, shape or substance

There is nothing wishey-washey, fickle, or people-pleasing about being a person who is truly accepting. Those who truly accept others and self are courageously willingly to see and to hear what is real, what is present, what is beautiful, what is ugly, what is healing, what is hurtful. And then, in the goodness that is authentic acceptance, contribute to knitting together the pieces that are all part of a beautiful, greater whole.

That we see and hear things from different perspectives is not an excuse to avoid participating in this high-calling. Indeed, it is the variations, the varigations, the rugged peaks and low valleys, the rocky plains and the smooth deserts of our shared existences that beget the richness that can serve to nurture and birth deep, meaningful and lasting peace.

We tend to think of peacemaking as being relegated to the highly educated, the mysteriously monastic, or the celebrated and wildly popular cultural icons of our time. It is appropriate to applaud those gifted in such ways. On the other hand, this may well be the time each of us need to accept that it is God, above all, who longs for His children to be at peace, and to be peacemakers.

Where do you see a need for an absence of the noise and commotion of opposing forces? 

A way to be more accepting? 

A door in need of being opened through which you may serve as a peacemaker?

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