Wade Into the Mess. (Peace-Keeping vs. Peace-Making)

Too often I've settled for a shallow form of peace. One that pursues the end of an argument rather than the growth that could come from talking it out for a while. I'll often use humor, change the subject, or simply concede to the other side because I think that's the kind thing to do. Honestly, it's just the easiest. 

It's way easier to just be wrong or just be right than to do the hard work of uncomfortable conversation. I have a hard time sitting in the tension of a disagreement, but most athletes know that "time under tension" is where real strength and growth occur. Too often I've settled for being a peacekeeper.

But Jesus didn't say, "Blessed are the peacekeepers."  He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Peacekeepers walk on eggshells because they are afraid of hurting people's feelings or looking bad. Peacekeepers are so focused on not causing any waves that they never spend time looking at the depth of potential waiting underneath. In trying to preserve some false sense of unity, they actually put up walls and barriers that prevent intimacy from taking place.

Recently, my wife got upset about the way I told a story about us to a group of friends. At first, I simply tried to get off the hook by explaining my side and why I was "right." In doing so, I was dismissing what she was feeling and also missing out on what was really going on. Rather than ending the conversation prematurely, we kept pressing in. I learned that the way I framed the story hit on some deep insecurities that she had. (something she wasn't even aware of until we explored it.) By staying in the tension, we were able to see ourselves and each other in a new and deeper light. This increased our ability to love each other well. Because we discovered the root issues, we can move forward being intentional about not repeating the offenses while also working on our insecurities. Had we stuck to the "I'm right" arguments or accepted the gut-reaction “I’m sorry” and not explored it further, none of this would have happened. "Peacekeeping" prevents intimacy.

Peacekeeping tries to sweep the offense under the rug with statements like "It's fine" or "It's no big deal." But when you ignore or dismiss the offense, you actually make forgiveness impossible. Forgiving someone means canceling their debt against you. In order for forgiveness to occur, the debt has to be acknowledged. To continually ignore or dismiss the debts creates an ever increasing distance between the parties. I've seen so many marriages that simply settle for mediocrity, unwilling to have the hard conversations that can create intimacy and connection.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Shalom at its core means "completion" or "wholeness." If offense isn't recognized, and therefore forgiveness isn't possible, then 'shalom' in unachievable. We are just walking around hiding our wounds.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 19:11, "It is the glory of man to overlook an offense." 

Now at first glance, this verse might seem to contradict the point I'm making. You might immediately read overlook and think "sweep under the rug."  But the Hebrew word there, 'avar, means something different. It means to pass through. Like wading through a river to get to the other side. If you aren't willing to do the hard work of wading through the mess in your relationships, you're always going to be stuck, unable to move forward. It might be comfortable, but it is really just a slow form of death.

 

Does this mean we chase down every single offense? I don't think so, as that would be exhausting and take up our entire lives. There is too much brokenness out there. But... Consider if the relationship is actually valuable and worth it to you. Consider the gravity of the offense. Is it serious? Or, is there a pattern of a 'less serious' offense that is making relationship difficult? Make sure you are seeing the situation clearly. These thoughts might be helpful. The main point is to be courageous. Don't dress up cowardice as 'being nice.' I'll write out some tactical steps on how to talk through disappointment soon.