A very important part of my job as an interior designer is to create welcoming spaces for my clients. One of the most crucial qualities of a welcoming environment is peace. Peace can be encouraged in the physical, mental, and spiritual areas of our lives.
While my services directly address the physical aspects of peace, they naturally cross over into the mental and spiritual aspects of peace, as well.
This includes keeping a steady, calm demeanor when interacting with clients and contractors. It also includes the energy that I bring with me when entering the homes of my clients.
It requires self-control and the ability to leave "personal stresses" out of my client experiences. It is also remaining conscious in discerning how I receive how others interact with me.
One helpful tip is remembering that most people have well-meaning intentions a majority of the time, even in the midst of difficult interactions and/or disagreements. Keeping this truth in mind helps me to remain a consistent source of peaceful support for both clients and colleagues.
This approach positively promotes working together to reach a common goal. I think that choosing actions and (more importantly) reactions based on being purposeful about remaining peaceful applies to all areas of life.
Another necessary part of my business is maintaining a social media presence. Due to the limitations of the current pandemic, it has become a lifeline in remaining connected to the outside world both professionally and personally.
We need one another. We need loving, supportive, and peaceful connections.
As we progress further into this difficult year, a lot of harsh realities have been brought into the light. Processing these realities can be very difficult. Understandably, pain and anger have dominated my various social media feeds from well-meaning people who are hurting and afraid. This saddens me to the point that I wanted to write about it.
Remaining purposefully peaceful is more necessary than ever if we are to be a light in this dark world.
I am watching people that I love and respect become less loving and respectful towards one another. I know that this isn't "who" they are at their core, so I refuse to completely block or cut them out of my life when I disagree with their stance.
Fear, propaganda, and mistrust have caused the worst parts of humanity to rear its ugly head. Politics, in particular, have pitted friends against one another. This isn't necessarily new, but it does seem to be getting worse.
While we absolutely need to be a voice and speak up for worthy causes, we shouldn't publicly tear apart our "friends" in the process.
Standing up for exploited children, racial injustice, and treating immigrants with dignity are all very important, necessary causes. I, too, have spoken out (and will continue to speak out) against injustice. However, I always try to keep love, grace, and empathy at the core of my message. After all, these causes, among others, need our consistent attention and dedication.
I applaud every person who is brave enough to step out of their own comfort zone to speak up (in love) for others. This is a very good thing.
Yet, when it comes to political candidates, perhaps we should focus more of our efforts in casting our vote instead of casting stones at our friends with differing views.
As we lend ourselves to the public issues that weigh heavily on our hearts, we must also guard those heavy hearts. So how in the world are we to effectively guard our hearts in the midst of such a divisive climate?
When I am going through difficulty and don't know who or what to trust, I always go back to certain biblical principles that consistently ground me, lovingly correct me, heal my heart and renew my thinking. Whether you are a Christian or not, I believe that the same principles may be helpful to your life, as well. So here are five principles that help me purposefully maintain (or regain, when I fall short) my peace when interacting with others.
The first principle of purposeful peace is actively discerning our thought life. What thoughts are playing on repeat in your mind? Do you know that you have the power to choose what thoughts you allow to remain?
For me, Philippians 4:8 gives the perfect checklist on how to discern what thoughts should be kept and what thoughts should be discarded.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things." Philippians 4:8
Is your thought true?
For a thought to be true, it has to have actually happened. If it hasn't happened yet (or you and/or someone you know well hasn't experienced it first hand), then there is a chance that your thought is based on fear and not reality. That doesn't mean that it can't happen. It just means that, as of this moment, it hasn't happened. Therefore, it is probably wise not to spend any more time fixated on it.
Is your thought noble?
The word noble means to show fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideas. In other words, is your thought respectable? If not, then be careful not to allow it to take up residence in your mind.
Is your thought pure?
Another word for pure is wholesome. Is your thought wholesome without any sort of malicious intent? Is it clean and healthy? Is it a thought that you would feel good about sharing with others? If not, then you should remove it far from your mind.
Is your thought lovely?
In other words does this thought promote beauty, grace, and harmony? Does it reflect goodness? Does it contribute to the goodness and unity that you desire or is it divisive and negative?
Is your thought admirable?
Does your thought encourage and inspire? If not, then maybe you should release it.
Once you learn the ongoing practice of discerning your thoughts, then it's time to apply the next principle.
The second principle in being purposefully peaceful is to control your tongue (or, in this case, comments).
The bible repeatedly addresses the importance of controlling our speech and warns about what will happen if we don't.
The old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" couldn't be further from the truth.
According to Proverbs 18:21, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit".
Our words definitely have power. We can use them to unite, encourage, and heal or we can use them to divide, blame, and cause further pain. They can deepen relationships or they can be the death of them. Whatever words we choose, we need to choose them carefully because we will experience the fruit (consequences/results) of those words.
Ephesians 4:29 states, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear".
Do our words build up? Are they helpful to the subject matter on which we speak? Do they extend grace to those that hear them? Not just those that agree with us, but ALL who hear them? Are we leaving graceful room for others with differing opinions to experience our words in a loving way? These are all important questions to ask if we desire to be promoters of peace.
Proverbs 15:1 states, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger".
Man oh man, Does this verse need to pop up on EVERY post and comment before it is shared.
We are all going through a difficult year. We are all triggered by certain subjects (me included). If we aren't careful, we will allow our emotions to do the talking the moment someone writes a triggering post or comment.
If you feel triggered by someone's words or comment, then I encourage you to take a meaningful pause...
Go back to principle number one about discerning your thoughts. Don't immediately react and don't assume the worst. Remember that person is your friend. Remember that they genuinely believe that their words are helpful (even if you feel that they have missed the mark or have a limited, even hurtful, perspective).
In most cases, I suggest not responding at all. Just hide their post or "snooze" them for a while if you find yourself consistently triggered by their posts. If you still feel hurt by their post or comment, then it's time to practice our next principal.
The third principle in being purposefully peaceful is to (lovingly) confront a friend or loved one PRIVATELY in a way that seeks to understand their motives.
Not only is this wise, but it's actually biblical when you are confronting other Christians.
Matthew 18:15-19 gives specific instructions on how to handle confrontation between believers.
"If a brother or sister sins, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as if they were a pagan or tax collector."
Notice that we are instructed to confront others privately if we genuinely feel that they are on the wrong path. This specifically applies to other Christians. There are proper steps to escalate a confrontation. Once those steps have been taken without a resolution, then it's time to peacefully walk away (knowing that you tried to speak to them from a loving place of correction and not from a place of condemnation) . None of this is meant to happen in a public forum for the entire world to see.
So what does it mean to treat someone as if they were a pagan or tax collector? It means to treat them as they are a non-believer.
How are we supposed to treat non-believers?
We are supposed to love them without condition. Period. End of sentence.
We are not to try and correct them or change them. We are simply to love them and share the love of Christ with them in hopes that our display of Christ-like (unconditional) love will open their hearts.
The relationship must always come before the correction. You can't expect others to follow the teachings of Christ when they don't have a relationship with him.
This is when our actions far outweigh our arguments, so it's best to lead with love.
This is a great time to check our motives and pin-point our goal.
Is our goal to unify, give hope, and change hearts that may have hardened?
Or is our goal to prove someone wrong, expose their shortcomings, or shame them for their differences?
If your goal is to unify, then public confrontation is never the answer.
If your goal is to shame, then you need to re-examine your own heart.
Did you know that the brain's ability to compromise actually shuts down when we are in a combative/argumentative state? I learned this and other helpful information related to communication from the book "Who Switched Off My Brain" by Dr. Caroline Leaf who is a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist.
When we reach the place where our attitudes and speech stem from an "us versus them" mentality, then we are literally wasting our breath and our time. The "them" that we are trying to "enlighten" when we take an argumentative approach will not receive our words, comments, or shared "news" articles in the way that we desire.
Also, where is the love in calling out or correcting our "friends" in a public forum? Where is the love in promoting hateful rhetoric about a public and/or political figure? Where is the love in generalizing and making assumptions about entire groups of people who may look, believe, or think differently than you? Where is the love in making assumptions and vilifying others?
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 explains this better than I can.
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."
So what does biblical love look like?
Again, 1 Corinthians chapter 13 gives the answer in verses 4-7.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
I don't know about you, but I can spend a lifetime checking myself and correcting myself based on this beautiful description of love. As a matter of fact, I should be so busy trying to achieve this type of love, that I simply don't have time to spend on calling out others.
If we spent as much time confronting ourselves as we do pointing out the flaws in others, then imagine how peaceful life could be.
The Forth principle in being purposefully peaceful is to promote what you love instead of what you hate.
In other words, promote HOPE.
Romans 8:24-25 states
"For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Unless you have serious malice in your heart, then the world does not look the way that you would like for it to look. It is so easy to focus on all of the bad around us.
It is during the dark times, that our hope becomes a literal lifeline. We need it to survive.
We need to know that things will get better.
Here is the good news...
We may be experiencing difficult trials, but we don't have to fix our eyes on them.
We can, instead, fix our eyes on what we desire.
Instead of sharing what we see and don't want, why not share solutions to change the things that need to change?
Our feeds are full of everyone sharing what they hate. "This candidate did this horrible thing. Or that political party is horrible because XYZ and so on."
Things have become so polarizing and off track that it is common to assume that if you are for one worthy cause, then that must mean that you are against every other worthy cause.
Not only is this ridiculous, but it is dangerously divisive.
There is no hope in division.
It threatens our compassion and empathy for one another. This type of rhetoric is flooding our feeds to the point of being completely ineffective. Even well-meaning, educational information (from reliable sources) is getting lost in all of the noise.
If we find ourselves constantly sharing this type of information, then understand that those that disagree with us have already tuned us out and those that agree with us don't actually need the information.
So why do we continue to share it? What is the goal? Is it to complain? Is it to shame? Is it to divide? Hopefully not.
So how do we remain peaceful and spread hope in a way that can actually make a tangible difference for the causes that penetrate our hearts?
We educate ourselves. We only share with others in meaningful, credible ways that are solution focused, respectful, and as loving as possible. We give others the freedom to do the same without publicly shaming them.
We share petitions to sign, links to make donations, and contact information of how to reach out to local representatives.
We actually sign petitions, donate our own money, and reach out to our local representatives, directly.
We peacefully protest companies by no longer purchasing their products when we feel that they are exploiting or discriminating against the vulnerable (unfortunately change has to hit some companies in the bank account before it reaches their heart).
We peacefully protest injustice along side our fellow brothers and sisters without losing sight of the overall goal of making a loving, positive change for the greater good. Our motives should stem from a place of love and reconciliation and never from a place of revenge.
We reach out to one another (privately) and schedule a time to talk directly about perspectives and experiences that we may not fully understand. We do this without ulterior motives.
We learn to listen to the hurting without reacting, defending, or deflecting. (The old saying "two wrongs don't make a right" definitely apply here). We understand that our personal understanding is limited to our own experience. We also accept that others may have vastly different experiences.
We try to look for the "why" behind hurtful behaviors. Knowing that there is always a deeper root cause (usually related to unhealed pain) that leads people to lash out. We practice empathy. We practice grace.
We look for various, credible ways to learn more about issues that we don't fully understand (by reading books and/or watching credible documentaries, etc).
We remain humble and teachable.
We understand that we are all connected. There is no "us" vs. "them". There is only "we". We either all heal united or we all suffer divided (in one way or another).
We remember that God loves every person that walks this earth, whether we care for them or not. We remember that Jesus died for all people and lived a beautifully rebellious life of love without sinning.
We gracefully receive wisdom from others and welcome opportunities to learn and grow.
We understand that acknowledgement, repentance, and justice are necessary prerequisites for healing and peace.
We vote for candidates that we feel will represent all people fairly and justly.
We choose our words carefully and learn the difference between having a healthy (productive) disagreement vs. a hurtful (unproductive) argument.
We learn the art of not responding to everything that triggers us.
We learn to value peace over pointing out flaws.
When we fall short (and we ALL fall short), we acknowledge our mistakes and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
The fifth and final principle in being purposefully peaceful is to forgive quickly.
Colossians 3:13-15 states "Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must also forgive others. Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony. Let the peace of heart that comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives, for this is your responsibility and privilege as members of his body. And always be thankful."
Forgiveness and peace go hand and hand. Forgiveness lightens the heaviness of our burdens. It resets our hearts and minds, so that we are not in a continuous state of pain. It also gives us our power back. It is a safeguard that protects our hearts from hardening towards others.
This is crucial to being a peacemaker in a world that seems to be void of peace.
Not everyone is meant to be in our inner circle. We learn to discern, over time, the difference between a healthy relationship and a toxic one. While there are some relationships that need to be completely severed, most just need to be understood.
Inner-circle friends and family are the relationships worth devoting a majority of our time and energy. They are the ones in whom we share the most intimate parts of our lives. They sharpen us and challenge us. They are both our safety net and our mirror.
There are lesser levels of intimacy the further we go beyond our inner-circle. As we get to know one another, we learn where each relationship belongs.
Relationships that are limited to social media interactions may be the least intimate, but they definitely have a purpose. These are the people that may not know you as well, but may identify with certain aspects of your personality.
Maybe they inspire you or you inspire them. Maybe they encourage and support you in a public way or vise versa. Either way, they have purpose.
Keep this in mind the next time someone posts something that triggers (or even offends) you.
Instead of immediately blocking them, I encourage you to temporarily hide, snooze, or (worst case) unfollow them. This way, there is still a chance at healing, growing, and reconciling.
Maybe you are the influence that they need to grow.
Maybe the parts of them that you find offensive are because they remind you of areas in yourself where you may fall short, but aren't quite ready to face.
Either way, don't completely cut them off.
We need to unify ourselves with one another now more than ever.
In this harsh season of cancel culture, we need to be the hopeful counter culture.
Let us show others how to love without condition. Let us lead by example on how to forgive quickly. Let us extend the same grace that is extended to us daily by our Creator.
Let us be love in action and peace personified.
2020 has been a year of testing. We have all been put to the fire in more ways than one. While we can't exactly choose what the future holds, we can choose how we react to it.
There are lots of great lessons to be learned during these trials. Are we going to be wise and absorb these tough lessons by allowing them to strengthen and sharpen us? Or are we going to allow the fire of our trials and fears completely destroy us?
We have a choice. We always have a choice.
So what do you choose? How do you want to impact those around you? Do you want to be a promoter of peace, unity, and love or do you want to ignite fear, division and condemnation towards those that disagree with you?
What will you choose?
I choose peace. I choose love. I choose compassion. I choose empathy.
Somedays, I will mess up... a lot. Somedays I will get it all completely wrong.
However, I will never stop trying to find new ways to love better, to live peacefully, and to honor God by extending grace upon grace towards myself and others.
Will you join me?