Today in Sunday School we talked about the Beatitudes and one of the verses especially struck a chord with me.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9
I’ve spent so much of my life having to stick up for myself that I’ve never learned how to become a peacemaker. I think it was because I watched my maternal grandmother constantly criticize my mother as my mother just sat there and took it. She internalized those messages leaving her with horrible self-esteem. I always wished she would stand up for herself, but she once told me that her own father believed in peace at any price. Well my mother’s own self-esteem and self-worth was a high price to pay for peace.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandfather more than words can say. He was the kindest, most honorable man I have ever met. I feel a huge void in my life not having him here. I know he would have adored his great-grandchildren. But he was from a different generation. His parents emigrated from Denmark to the United States after suffering from religious persecution. I’m sure that they suffered so many hardships that they just didn’t want to dwell on them or talk about them. However, never talking about problems and resolving them leads to a superficial peace and internal turmoil.
The only time I saw my Mom stand up to my grandmother is when she focused her criticisms on us children.
I was teased a lot growing up. Tortured, really. I’ve had children say the meanest things in the world to me and I sat there and took it. I was a meek child. I was also very sickly and missed a lot of school. I was very sensitive. I was the kid who always befriended the new kid because I hated seeing other people lost or alone. I was an easy target. And then something happened in 7th grade. I stopped taking it. I learned to stand up for myself. Usually I’d do it with a quick wit and humor. I just had gotten so sick of people teasing me that I stopped taking anyone’s guff.
And I’ve never stopped standing up for myself. The hubs lives in constant fear that one day I’m going to get him beat up because I don’t back down. My sister once told me that my ability to stand up for myself and for others is what makes me a great social worker. I always say I’m a fighter, not a lover.
I don’t often back down from a fight. Not because I think I’m always right and I must win at any cost. I just will not tolerate someone attacking me. I won’t do it. You don’t get to say hurtful things to me and not hear my response. You just don’t. I won’t tolerate it.
So how do I balance my ability to stand up for myself with making peace with others? How do I not become a doormat in my efforts to become a peacemaker? This is what I’m struggling to find out.
About the only time I can think of in my life where I decided the fight wasn’t worth it was back in college. I was in a leadership position on campus and a group of people wrote me a note criticizing my performance in the position. What made me angry is that they didn’t have the guts to tell me to my face (they chose the ever so effective passive aggressive note technique) and there were personal attacks in the note. It wasn’t a, “We feel you could do better in this area…” and more of a, “you suck because….” type of note. What was really hurtful was that some of the people who wrote the note I considered friends.
So here I was, having just read a very hurtful, rude, condescending note and I was ANGRY. I sat down and I furiously wrote a response. Some of the people who were involved in the note saw me writing my retort. (One even commented to my roommate about it and said he couldn’t wait to hear my response). However, after I wrote the note I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I think I might have gone home and ripped it up, or I kept it and never delivered it. I don’t know. But I think it was one of the times in my life where I decided that I needed to keep the peace. Those people got to say what they thought, and I just continued living my life and not caring about their opinion of me.
I feel like I need to take this situation in my life and use it as an example of trying to become more of a peacemaker. I think learning to forgive, learning to let go, and giving up the hope that certain things and certain people are going to change, will go a long way toward helping me to achieve a balance between someone who stands up for themselves but also values peace.
I was thinking today in Sunday School, because we also talked about the Law of Moses and how Jesus came to fulfill the law, about how one of the commandments is “thou shalt not kill,” but Jesus came along and also warned about anger. I believe that anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.
So here’s to peace. It’s my new journey.