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Let Peace Begin with MeSeptember 18, 2014
When I was a little girl, we sang a song in Sunday School: "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." I liked the song but had no idea at all what it meant. Within minutes of getting back in the car, I was tormenting my younger brothers. And they me, I might add. We were anything but peaceful. Now I find it painful and upsetting to watch or read the war-filled, horror laden news. I have a longing for peace and it is in my prayers for this country and for the world. I have learned much from the Holy Scriptures about the virtue of Peace.
Peace is one of the most powerful of all virtues, which we are called to practice as faithful people of God. So what does it mean? In one aspect, peace means the way we treat others, whether as nations or family members. It is being willing to give up the love of power for the power of love. It is calling on our self-discipline to "turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29) which means forgiving people for hurting us. There is another virtue that allows us to be peaceful. I once heard the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the Dalai Lama say that Peace depends on Justice. How do we practice it?
- To protect everyone's rights, including our own, we do not allow ourselves to be either victims or perpetrators of verbal, physical or emotional abuse. We don't justify violence by getting drunk and lashing out. If it means giving up alcohol, we do it.
- We give up backbiting, which is divisive. We practice peace by speaking kindly, touching gently, and choosing justice instead of anger.
- Even our thoughts can be cleansed of violence. Peace Pilgrim, an elderly woman who walked across the United States for the cause of peace said, "If we knew how powerful our thoughts are, we would never again have another negative thought."
The spiritual practice of thought replacement can work miracles. The Baha'i teachings say, when a thought of anger comes, replace it with a thought of love or gratitude. Replace a thought of war with a thought of peace. This practice is one of the most purifying and empowering I know. It is most essential in relation to our intimates who are exquisitely sensitive to our thoughts, words and actions toward them.
Then, there is inner peace, which comes only when we make a firm decision to
- Stop hurrying, give up rushing, overdoing, and exhausting ourselves trying to be an E type personality – everything to everybody. We choose our yeses carefully and keep a pace of Grace.
- Spend time each day in silence, reflection and prayer.
- Use kind words even to ourselves. We love and forgive ourselves, and always start over after a mistake by making amends, not excuses.
Practicing both outer and inner peace comes with a Divine blessing -- a promise: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9) Because we are all connected through the human spirit, it is not only possible to contribute to world peace by letting it begin with us. It is the only way it will ever come about.
September 21st is international peace day. There is a shared moment of focusing on peace by people all over the world. Why not join in? http://internationaldayofpeace.org/