ME – A PEACEMAKER, NO WAY!

Well, I don’t have a very good experience of being a peacemaker mainly because I usually avoid conflicts. This has been a feedback for me since quite some time in my yearly appraisals that I need to learn to resolve conflicts among my team members because it is an important aspect of being a leader. So, as part of leading my team – I need to ensure that they can work well with each other. But I find it very difficult because I feel that being a peacemaker really drains my energy. I feel so exhausted if I have to deal with it. 

The only peacemaking I do is when my son gets into fights with other kids in the neighborhood that is the only time that I gladly step in to resolve a conflict. Only because it is fairly easy to resolve the conflicts among kids because they really do listen to you. I have dealt with adults who are probably much more immature than my 5-year-old son. 

There is one peacemaking that I am doing actively but reluctantly these days is between my husband and his parents. Yes, you read it right. I am the mediator between my husband and my in-laws for a lot of things. The situation is that my husband is away living in another city and I am living with our son and my in-laws since last almost 3 years now. Apparently, I have managed to build up a good rapport with my in-laws wherein my husband is not involved in the equation.

My husband is a bit of a free spirit. All of us know that he is quite careless about things. Losing his precious items and forgetting important events is very common with him. And a person like him is now staying alone in this Corona period. All of us are quite sure that he doesn’t take as many precautions as required. He might not be washing all the groceries and packages that he receives, he might not be immediately changing his clothes if he comes home from outside. 

On the other hand, my in-laws are practically paranoid about Corona. All the grocery items, veggies are washed thoroughly. Any electronic items or books that cannot be washed are kept at a corner of the house for a couple of days till we are sure that they are free of any virus. We are obviously not stepping out of the house at all. If we have to step out at all – only eyes are visible (preferred to be covered with specs). As soon as we step in, everything needs to be washed. 

Imagine the amount of conflict between my husband and my in-laws. Parents keep complaining that he is not paying enough attention to the Corona cleanliness and my husband has an attitude – “Jo hoga dekha jayega (We will deal with whatever happens), I cannot stop my life”. And I am stuck somewhere in between trying to pacify both sides. Multiple arguments on both sides totally exhaust me and now I have come to a situation where I tell both parties – “Please deal with each other directly, don’t talk to me about it”. 

Tell him to take a bath as soon as he reaches home” My mother in law would tell me.

Tell her I have taken bath thrice since morning” my husband would say that with a laugh on the other side. And I know for sure that he is not telling the truth. 

Well, I just hope Corona ends soon without affecting my family so that this conflict is over forever. 

Just got reminded of a meme I read recently – “Corona has divided this world in two groups. One group is extremely aware of Corona cleanliness and does everything possible to ensure that virus doesn’t enter their homes. Another group who take minimal precautions and believe that they would deal with it if it happens. And the funny part is that both the groups think that the other group is foolish” 

In my family, both the groups exist and I am living with the two groups. God, save me!

PEACEMAKER – PACEMAKER OF PERISHING RELATIONSHIP

A random thought popped up as I am vigorously stirring up ideas in my mind to write for this week’s topic – A Peacemaker. I found an allegorical resemblance between a Peacemaker and a Pacemaker.

What does a Pacemaker do? I will keep it quite simple. “A pacemaker is a small device that’s placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heartbeats. This device uses electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate,” as Google defines it so.

When the heart beats slower than the normal rate i.e. 60 bpm, it pumps less oxygen in the body which as a consequence results in many complications fatigue, short breathiness being simple ones to surface first. Hence a pacemaker normalizes the way how the heart functions, read beats.

So what’s the similarity? Just as a pacemaker, an external instrument normalizing the heart functioning and thereby ensuring the health of the body that includes reviving life as well, a peacemaker, an external catalyst/influence helps redeem the limping and perishing relationships – be it on micro-level between friends/family or on a macro level between nations.

What quality a peacemaker must possess? Knowledge of facts and figures, excellent communication skills, and integrity are few qualities a diplomat mediating between organizations or governments require. But keeping this discussion to a micro-level of “You, Me, Ours, Us and We” all it takes is Empathy, Patience, and a still head on shoulders most importantly.

As my dear friend Rajnandini said in her write up (must read it, amazing work) a person with no peace dwelling in his own heart/mind can’t ensure tranquility around and among others. And the most interesting aspect of being a “Peacemaker” is that this crown is conferred upon a person by others and not a self-proclaimed title just like a pacemaker installed by doctors and not by the patient himself/herself.

My experience: Being the eldest one in my family I often had my siblings pouring in their heart to me. Be it their differences with friends or partners or any other relationship /relative. And every grieving soul wants to be heard first without being judged. So I don’t interrupt in between. And after having heard to them I resort to my favorite line “let me talk to them” because I believe that every aspect has a second version of facts/perception. Once the other side of the coin is exposed (not in a negative sense) I make sure that the relevant points – concerns/worries/viewpoints are conveyed in a nonhurtful manner. Taming of ego is a big job of a Peacemaker. Unless the ego of a person is trapped, tamed, and shown an exit, peace refuses to make an entry and hence the relationships suffer a slow agonizing death. Peacemaker or not (I don’t know how my loved one sees me), I follow a simple formula – “you are right but the other person is not wrong either. Talk, Listen, and Solve TOGETHER”. I have numerous incidents in my life but can’t (actually don’t want to) specify or single out any incident -confidentiality clause.

Peace needs Pace” – slower we act or react to identify or resolve the issues corroding our relationships or body, death is writing on the wall. Think about it.

“The one who has peace among his own mind, body, and spirit; who enjoys unity among his whole-being can only be a peacemaker. He is a person whose body follows his mind which decides to execute what is right and just according to the yearning of his spirit.”

(Provided the yearning of one’s spirit is centered around God, the Almighty)

A PEACEMAKER

A peacemaker’s life isn’t easy. Nah. It never is. Yet, a peacemaker is always the solution. Someone who could sing harmony in a room of conflict or who could stand and deliver a statesman in the Gaza strip – that, of course, is beyond our means. We all search for a peacemaker never realising ‘peace comes from within’. And this is a phrase we have heard since our teens. A peacemaker needn’t necessarily be a middle man or someone who connects estranged hands. You and I can be peacemakers too. Anyone who tries and succeeds in conquering one’s own conflict and controls lust is also a peacemaker.

But more often than not we need a peacemaker to help us reap value of that hidden peace within us. Like James and Jenny needed one to help solve their inner conflicts and hate for each other. Jenny and James are part of a five-sibling family brought up by a single mother. Their mother, Lima, lost her husband when her youngest was two days old. James and Jenny are just five years apart neither is the oldest or the youngest. 

Her five kids were Lima’s only family. She was their mother and their father. It was obvious that they were all affectionate and caring for each other, but James and Jenny were special. They shared a strange and sweet connection. Both looked out for each other. They were partners in crime – like sharing stolen fried fish from the kitchen or running away with jelly gums from a shop. They were each other’s protector when required. Jenny would often take blame for James’ ‘mischiefs’ and when James found out Jenny had committed some wrongdoing, he would hurry to clean it up.

Things though aren’t the same any more. 26 years have passed and James and Jenny haven’t spoken in the last 4 years. No, the right sentence is ‘they don’t talk to each other’. Their connection of childhood is now a tale for the memory. James got married and has two kids. Jenny the same. But Jenny is also divorced or as she calls it ‘free from a meaningless relationship.’

Her husband was a middle-class man with a government job. They lived happily for six years but it was at the start of the final five that things turned sour. An 11-year marriage eventually ended in a court room. Now, Jenny’s husband was a friend of James. They had worked together in the same company for some time in the past. Jenny loathed her brother for not telling her about the affair.

But James had always tried to save the marriage. Was he aware of any affair? He didn’t think he knew of any such thing. To him his friend was a ‘just man’. But Jenny scorned at him for that too. “You sided with him when I needed you most,” she once shouted at her brother. James now felt Jenny was too dominating and stubborn. He married two years after his younger sister. And for a year, he had rented a room in Jenny’s house where she earlier lived with her husband. Her two kids are her only company now.

James left the house after a year with his sister’s marriage in disarray. He never tried to reconcile his sister’s failing marriage. “She’s too stubborn. Always wants a ‘yes man’,” he would tell his wife Cathy whenever they talked about Jenny and the divorce. During that year in Jenny’s house, he would often hear Jenny and Selaman (Jenny’s husband) arguing through the night. Selaman came late night on most days and he was drunk. But he wasn’t a regular drunkard when James had first met him. A fine young man with so much talent the world could be at his feet.

They bonded well and Selaman confided in James, his best friend. Even after his divorce Selaman and James remained friends. His sister’s husband spent after office hours at the pub. He didn’t want to go home that early. Curious, James once asked “why?” Selman told him there was no love at home. Jenny would shout at him over silly things. They argued more than talking. The kids weren’t allowed to meet if he came home late. This was when the marriage was still living – slowly cracking but still remediable. 

Today the marriage is a thing of the past. Jenny’s kids often visit the house. But she doesn’t. James does the same when he takes his family over. Usually, he returns back home after dropping them. One day, Jenny’s son dragged him to the house. Jenny forced a sweet on his mouth that day. Their eyes had lighted with tears (no this isn’t a melodrama). But that was it. The relationship looked beyond repair.

But he missed his little sister. You bet, she did too. They both found a good communicator in Cathy (James’s wife). Every time she visited Jenny, James would warn her: “don’t get into any argument just hear and nod. Please do not react she will get angry.” He thought Jenny was still stubborn. 

Cathy once asked Jenny “why don’t you reconcile with James?” “Why should I,” Jenny had said. “He is the big brother he should.” James thought something similar – She’s younger, she should first. This fight wasn’t just for Selaman but for things beyond it. Jenny thought her brother knew about an affair. That he knew Selaman drank before the wedding and above all James knew that he wasn’t the right man for her. But he didn’t…

James knew more. He knew why Selaman drank. He knew why Jenny hated her ex-husband and he knew why they separated. But he wished he never knew Selaman. Perhaps Jenny shouldn’t have married Selaman. A broken marriage then wouldn’t have resulted in a strained brother-sister relationship.

Neither were willing to stretch the hand of reconciliation. They needed a peacemaker. What they didn’t know was the peacemaker was already at work. Cathy didn’t want her husband to regret a friendship, regret one decision and live with a broken relationship with his dear sister. She didn’t want her children deprived of their aunt’s love ,- an aunt, who made the best kheer (rice pudding). She would often call Jenny and ask about her childhood memories with James.

At bed, James would often discuss Jenny and the happy times the siblings shared growing up – something that seemed a distant memory now. Both James and Jenny regretted not talking to each other. But neither would take the first step. Cathy knew she couldn’t force nor could she intervene. Time is a healer. No one realised when phone conversations with Jenny became group conversations with James and Jenny. Sometimes the kids would join. Of course, their other siblings did too. 

One day, Cathy was at Jenny’s place and suddenly the phone rang. Ohh, Jenny’s phone it was. The caller name said ‘mischief’. Cathy recognised the number, Jenny did too. That was the first call James had made to Jenny in four years and 23 days. Cathy remembers it well. James hadn’t called to apologise to his little sister. The call was on Jenny’s phone because Cathy’s number was unreachable. 

That was the first step, Cathy believes. She notes down “No one forced, yet it happened.” Cathy is writing a book sitting in a coffee shop. Her friend asks “why ‘mischief’?” Because James was always mischievous. “So were you the peacemaker, then,” her friend continued. Cathy said ‘no!’ “I was just the person both needed to realise their importance in each other’s life.”

Just then James called her to remind she had to reach his office in an hour with the children. They were going home to celebrate Jenny’s 36th birthday. She bid her friend goodbye and got into the cab. As she shut the door, a thought hit her mind. Cathy takes out a diary and writes “A Peacemaker.” 

(Author: Joseph Biswas)

THE PEACEMAKER IN MY LIFE

Every time I am angry with someone, I prefer not to talk with the person concerned. It’s easy and gives you time to re-think. Also, instead of engaging in endless arguments, it’s better to give your mind some peace. Time acts as a healer and things gradually normalize. 

Yes, silence often works as a great peacemaker, but not always. Some situations require peacemakers who work as a catalyst to make the sour talks sweeter. And the moment I think of peacemaker, my cousin sister Kuljeet’s name immediately pops up into my mind. Whenever I am angry with anyone, I let her know and she has the perfect logic which works each time. Lending an ear to your problems and solving them is so easy for her. I often yell at my kids when they fight, which is the easiest thing to do, but I also remember the way Kuljeet used to handle her sons when they used to quarrel. She used to talk to them individually, then together, and sought out the differences. With both the sons crying and shouting simultaneously, I wish I could calm them down the way she used to do. 

A few years back, I was having some real issues and was frequently quarreling with my husband. I immediately told Kuljeet and she was all ready to calm me down and listen to my woes. She made me understand where I was at fault. I worked upon those things and everything became perfect.

I have been in many circumstances where conflicting views result in a feud and I always found it difficult to be a peacemaker there and preferred to escape from the situation. After all, who wants to be a punching bag?

Not everyone can be a peacemaker and blessed are those who can be one, because without them it won’t be possible to heal the relations!

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

Ever imagined a world without conflict, division, war, hatred and strife – where peace, tranquility and harmony reign over every heart and soul? Utopian fantasy, some would say!

Rightly so, considering the quantum of chaos and discord all around – deep inside the mind, in the family, at the workplace, in social structures and in the world at large – peace seems to be as elusive as the silver lining beneath the dark cumulo-nimbus clouds that augurs hope but then slips into oblivion.

A world that was groaning and moaning in the aftermath of two World Wars has been spared of a third one till date, thanks to the astute role of  the United Nations which deserves a fair share of credit for achieving the purpose of its inception to a great extent. However, the world has not been completely rid of wars and conflicts. We still have heart wrenching graphic images and stories of strife-torn countries, broken families and lost lives.

What we need to understand is that as long as there are disparities and divisions, there will be conflict. And, such credentials will continue to be companions of the world as long as it exists.

Taking an example, close to home – think of sibling rivalry. Why does it happen? It happens when one child ‘perceives’ his/ her sibling/s as being loved or attended to more than self. In case such a perception is real, the rivalry stays on along the years and continues into adulthood and may be the cause of deep-rooted enmity between/ among siblings. If such a perception is faulty, then parental intervention helps dissipate the apprehension and restore peace.

This is true for every other spectrum and all relationships that we can think of.

Ronald Reagan said, “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

So then, if differences create strife and differences cannot be completely gotten rid of, can peace be ever attained?

Peace is an internal construct. It is not an external construct that needs to be attained by certain means. We cannot attain peace by doing or not doing certain things. It is purely a gift of the Spirit of God to man. But, our actions sure play important parts in helping to retain or renounce peace in our lives and in that of others.

The story is told of a man who was in the quest of peace. He quit his job and started on his hunt for peace. Each morning he left home and wandered far and near to catch hold of peace which he could then spread everywhere. But, each evening he returned home disillusioned and got into drunken brawls with his wife. The rapidly depleting resources soon brought them to a point of mounting debts and starvation until one day the young wife, moments before breathing her last sighed, “Ah! Peace at last!” But before she could explain what this peace was, to her husband, she drifted off into the other world, leaving him alone to continue his quest for peace.

And so go on the stories of many men who wander off to attain peace and in the process drift even farther from it, while all the time it is very much within them.

With conflict continuing to reign massively in the world, each one of us can be peacemakers in the roles that we play. But, so as to be peacemakers we must first have peace within us. Without our own internal peace, all our efforts in peace-making no matter how sincere they may seem, would end up being fruitless. Peace within, would create the desire to see peace restored everywhere.

Calming down heated arguments and signing peace pledges may give us the satisfaction of playing significant roles in restoring peace, but these are simple indications of the soul within that has been designed for retaining and yearning for peace.

More than being a virtuous act, it is indeed a blessing to be a peacemaker. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

Even as we strive to be peacemakers, let us first receive the gift of peace from God.

WHAT MAN HAS MADE OF MAN!

One of my favourite poems by William Wordsworth which I can’t help but reproduce in entirety reads thus –

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sat reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

 

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

 

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;

And ’tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

 

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure: —

But the least motion which they made,

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

 

The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

 

If this belief from heaven be sent,

If such be Nature’s holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?

When we stop for a moment on our tracks to think of all the various acts of violence that can come to our mind, we will quiver at the enormity and increasing novelty of them all. Properties damaged or destroyed by violence can still be restored, but precious lives? Can people killed in violence be brought back to life? Can their loved ones recover completely from the brutal fact that snatched a dear one from their lives? Acts of violence are always external, but their causes and impacts are largely internal. The idea of violence is conceived in the mind and then takes birth as visible actions. And, at the root of such conception of violence is hatred – sheer hatred – rising either out of differences in thoughts or beliefs or judgement. Volumes can be written on the topic of violence, but I’ll briefly touch upon few of them and their ramifications.

  • Violence in the family

Heated aggressive exchanges between husband and wife, alcoholic husband bashing his wife in a fit of drunken stupor, in-laws beating the daughter-in-law to press for their demand for more dowry, bride-burning for dowry, beating the wife/ daughter-in-law for conceiving a female, forced abortions, mother beating children mercilessly – either because she is frustrated for unspoken issues of her own or because her children are truly a handful for her to handle, beating one’s own self because the situation is out of hand, siblings killing each other over property, homicide – are a few of the many instances of violence in the family.

  • Violence at a societal level

People groups behaving violently towards each other – race against race, tribe against tribe, ethnic groups against each other, religious groups against each other, a neighbourhood ganging up against one person or family for some conflict of interest, in Indian context – caste violence, honour killings or villagers inflicting atrocities on newly married couple who have tied the knot in deviance to accepted cultural practices – the resultant arson and lynching paint a shoddy picture of human affairs.

  • Mob violence

When protests for rights take violent turns, they often result in mob violence and riots. Either clashes of protesters with law enforcement agencies or clashes among rival protesting groups, a sudden angry exchange in the traffic leading to group formation, stone pelting and vandalism often leading the way to organized acts of criminal nature, not to mention gang rapes and/ or murders.

  • Violence for experimentation and thrill

Alfred Nobel did not invent the dynamite to blow up roads, bridges, houses in order to demolish developmental works, cause fear, havoc and mayhem. Nobel just discovered a new method to blast rock! He did not intend to spread violence for the mere thrill of experimentation. Today, the principle of the invention of dynamite is applied to invent variations of explosives which are used for destruction and devastation. At the same time, we do have some crazy creative minds (psychos, I would call them) who gain saddistic pleasure from experimenting, inventing and discovering stuff that are intended to propagate barbarity.

  • Violence as political vendetta

Violence resulting from political vendetta is not unknown to any country in the world. Most countries in the world have had their share to witness such violence during some periods of their political history. The gains from such vendetta politics are minuscule and short-lived, but the scars they leave behind are long-lasting and generational – at times heaping the onus on the future political clan to seek forgiveness for or make amends for the losses that the previous generations have caused.

  • Violence wrecked by terrorism

Terrorism arising from cultural or religious indoctrination serves NO PURPOSE save destruction. Well, that in fact is the sole objective of various terrorist outfits – mere devastation!

  • Random violence

Random acts of violence are the saddest of all. We are aware of the mass shootings in school campuses, road rages and accidental celebratory gun shots. Though there may at times be some reasons beneath such random events of violence, none justify the actions.

  • Silent violence

Is there something called ‘silent violence’? Have you experienced fist fights in your head at times – the times you feel you would rise to bash up someone and counter their attacks as well? That’s silent violence. It does not cause immediate visible destruction, but eats you away from inside.

I deliberately refrain from quoting instances for each of these categories of violence. But, I want you to recall episodes of each such type that you might have witnessed, read or heard about. No matter what be the reason, was violence the only answer in all those cases?

Violence is not God’s design for mankind. God has created humans with thinking and reasoning minds, just like His, that can debate and dialogue over diverse issues, that can agree to disagree on conflicting interests, that can tolerate each others’ differences and still continue to coexist in harmony. That we are created differently in appearances and thoughts is an evidence of God’s creative genius. So, aren’t we mindless to clamour for uniformity of thought and expression?

It is such a paradox that we are liberal to tolerate sin, but are intolerant towards views, opinions and practices of others simply because they are not in line with what we consider to be right! I have always maintained in my articles that the only absolute for what is right and wrong is God’s standards and His standards hold true universally. Practices or beliefs rising beyond God’s standards are relative – they are not binding on anyone and cannot and should not be imposed on anyone.

Wars have been fought over land borders or revenge. Countless soldiers have been martyred rendering mothers childless, children fatherless and robbing the happiness of wives as they enter into widowhood. The United Nations was established in 1945 after World War II with the intention of preventing future wars. It has remarkably succeeded, hats off to the wise think-tanks and diplomats of all countries that have got together to keep dialogues going on in volatile regions – we haven’t witnessed a World War III!

But that having been said, wars haven’t been deleted off the pages of history. It is good to feel proud for the martyrs and marvel at their valiance. It is noble to provide financial security for their families in exchange for the lives that have been sacrificed. However, have we ever gone beyond to think of the untold mental agony the widow goes through or the psychological damage caused to the child who never got to have a glimpse of who his/ her father was? Long after the wars are over and the fumes have cooled off, we are left with soldiers maimed for life. They may win medals of gallantry, but we cannot understand their mounting frustration of each day as they depend upon others to go about their daily chores! We cannot even begin to imagine the battles fought by soldiers off the battlefield – with PTSD. Even the most empathetic civilian cannot claim to understand them because civilians do not experience or witness the toughness of battle scenes as soldiers do.

None of us is an eternal occupant in planet earth. None of us is the custodian of a given set of values or beliefs. None of our self-interests weigh more than lives of others. Do egos cost more than lives – those lives which we do not have the power to create?

Reflecting on all acts of violence, I can only lament in Wordsworth’s words – ‘What man has made of man’!

Each act of violence causes irreparable psychological damage. We cannot eradicate violence from the face of the planet. But, each of us can pledge not to endorse, encourage, enjoy, practise or propagate violence in any form, whether within the four walls of our houses or outside, whatever be the reason.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – The Bible