Why Peace Is Difficult (If Not Impossible)


Begin by drawing a circle.

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Outside of the circle, begin a list of everything you don’t like, that irks you, that spins you out or floods you emotionally; everything that is contrary to your tastes, preferences, temperament, beliefs, principles; everything that stresses you out, makes you anxious and or afraid, everything that pushes your buttons.

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These are the things that will cause you conflict.

What remains—your likes, preferences, talents, abilities, things you handle well—goes inside the circle.

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And what remains is basically your comfort zone.

So why is peace so difficult? Because for almost all of us, our comfort zones are much smaller than our discomfort zones.  In other words, our comfort zones are too small to permit much peace.  We are surrounded by things that make us uncomfortable, that threaten us, that stress us out, that make us feel inferior, that threaten to overwhelm us, that might harm us, that might change us in ways we don’t want to be changed, that might subject us to stuff that’s not in our best interest of being subject to.

And our comfort zone & and our discomfort zone—i.e., the rest of life, the larger world around us—are separated by some fairly substantial walls–

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GREAT_WALL-very-long

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Fairly well defended walls—fairly impermeable membranes, like certain types of cellular walls.

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to deal well with conflict–which often means dealing with conflict squarely, rather than avoiding it.  And one of the best ways to deal with conflict is through dialogue—one that increases mutual understanding, one that promotes thinking, reflecting, and seeing the other person’s point of view.

And this is why there will never be peace.

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There will never be peace until more and more of us learn better and better how to speak intelligently about difficult and touchy subjects—and to value having these difficult conversations and thinking about difficult subjects, instead of avoiding them.  There will never be peace until more and more of us learn how to deal with conflict instead of avoiding it—and to value dealing with conflict more than avoiding it. To become better at dealing with conflict we need to become skilled at doing six things. Listening well.  Thinking clearly & honestly.  Seeing both sides more objectively & neutrally.  Being articulate.  Becoming less enamored with the path of most ease and least resistance.  Accepting and dealing with criticism fairly and legitimately—i.e., using our intellect & reason much more than our emotions & ego.

“There is a great deal of pain in life, and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain.” – R. D. Laing

“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.” – Thomas Merton, “The Seven Storey Mountain”

There are two types of criticism we should always seek and be willing to listen to and reflect on if we truly want to grow and become better people. 1. Criticism of our principles and what we stand for, i.e., our personal life philosophy (and that includes our standards). 2. Criticism of how well our actions match up with our principles / life philosophy. Criticism, if met directly, leads to thinking, self-examination, reflection, and then to debate and discussion.*  If we are not open to challenge / criticism / debating our personal life philosophies and how well our actions match up with our claimed deepest principles, then we are not really interested in growing and deepening. Growth-oriented people seek challenge and deal with criticism differently than people who are driven by their emotions and egos—people who largely want to receive, be comfortable, have fun, et cetera.

Criticism is a form of feedback, often of correction, and equally if not more so as often of disapproval. When we are criticized, something we have done or said is not being approved of or accepted (or “validated”). And the criticism is offering us another point of view or perspective.

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(* And not the other way around.  For a discussion/conversation/debate to be fruitful, much thinking and reflection and self-examination must take place between point & counterpoint, between stimulus and response, between stimulus [what the other person says] and [our] response.  Otherwise a discussion will likely quickly devolve into a reactive conversation—i.e., an argument.  The common marital complaint about “poor communication” is really just a symptom of, among several things, the consistent repeated lack of reflection & self-examination on the part of one person or both people in the couple.)

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in B4Peace, Bloggers for Peace, Comfort Zone, Critical Thinking, Criticism, Discomfort Zone, Personal Growth, Perspective, R. D. Laing, The Examined Life, Thomas Merton, Truth, Waking Up and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Why Peace Is Difficult (If Not Impossible)

  1. GREAT post and insight John…thank you. Very timely as I am going through separation.

    • John says:

      Hello Jonathan,

      I just clicked over to your blog and read through your last few posts (and responded to the one re: Pema’s “When Things Fall Apart.” I’m not sure what to say, but I am glad this post resonated with you, and perhaps the video I posted today may speak to you as well.

      Stay strong. Kindest regards,

      John

  2. janeadamsart says:

    Excellent. J.Krishnamurti used to say that the essence of conflict is relationship with it, which is peace.

    • John says:

      Thanks, Jane, for reading and commenting! And Krishnamurti is one of my favorite thinkers; always something in his words that provokes thought or gives a different perspective!

  3. gurty guyt says:

    You make alot of sense…..NONsense that is.

    “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence”

    Complete nonsense. People often mistaken lust for love. When you do something that feels good, that isn’t love. It is lust. Love is fully humble and silent. It reveals itself in parts that are built over time. An exampe would be the beginning of any relationship where two people are infatuated with one another. They think they “love” each other. Just like Romeo and Juliet knew nothing about love. They were simply fools. Lusty love is the mainstream interpretation. But a false one.

    A rich man “loves” money. A psycho “loves” to kill. A pedophiles “loves” children. A drug addict “loves” cocaine. But when a person truly loves another person, it isn’t in words. It is through grown respect, a humbled conscience, self sacrifice, and genuine care. And when those things exist to allow real love to be, they aren’t just applied selectively. A person who truly loves will truly try to love all people. But not with the awareness of love.

    It has been said that a Christian who believes they are saved more than likely isn’t. There is a prententious nature about outwardly declaring your self attributes. We should show complete modesty in every case. Just watch mainstream movies and look how pretentious “love” is. It is heavily laced with arrogance.

    We are born with greed and many lusts. And they are often disguised as love to make fools of people. But again, real love proves itself over time. It cannot be used to fool someone. Celebrities are often the biggest fools. They have flings, get married, then divorced and then do it all over again. It is sickening to say the least. And the media entities try to paint “dream couples” in Hollywood. Disgusting.

    I have been married to my first wife for 18 years. She was 17 years old when we met. We have three kids. And we plan to have more someday. And as romantic as our beginning was at times, we both look back and know without a doubt that it wasn’t love. It was infatuation. A fullfilment of lusting. When the “newness” wears off, that is when you truly begin to know someone, as well as yourself. And it can be a good or bad thing. We spent a good ten years getting to know one another. And we have had our share of disagreements and hard times. We both found flaws in each other we never knew were there. And technically, by society standards, we shouldn’t be together. But we are. We have reached the point of no return where we have built something significant that needs us together. We know love. But we didn’t know 10 years ago. And that’s the problem with most couple today. They don’t know love because they don’t stay together long enough to find out. There is no such thing as love at first sight. That is LUST.

    • John says:

      Hello Gurty Guyt —

      You’re preaching to the choir with what you wrote in your comment. If you’ve read many (any) of the posts on this blog, then you’ll know that the ideal of love that is promoted and espoused here on this blog is very much in line with what you wrote in your comment. Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a state of being (or an orientation of our being); love isn’t something we merely say, it’s something we demonstrate again and again through our behavior (love is as love does), and it’s something that when the going gets tough, we show how genuine or shallow our “love” is.

      For example, here’s a post that exemplifies what is par for the course on this–

      https://realtruelove.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/how-close-does-the-dragons-spume-have-to-come-to-you-to-me-to-any-of-us-before-we-get-it/

      What you are describing in you comment is much in line with what authors/thinkers (some of whom are therapists) like: Merton, C.S. Lewis, M. Scott Peck, Erich Fromm, David Schnarch, Krishnamurti, Rilke, Kierkegaard, even Jesus, Buddha, St. Paul have written (or said) about love.

      And so the quote “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence” is very apt, because it doesn’t speak of the airy-fairy Hollywood romantic type of love–that type of “love” (lust/limerance/infatuation) isn’t the answer to the problem of human existence–though many people, including some celebrities certainly seem to act as if it is. The type of love–Love–that is the “only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence” (those words are from Erich Fromm’s book “The Sane Society”), is the type of love that makes us into more genuinely loving people–people able to love (interact with) others in a very emotionally/psychologically healthy and spiritually centered way–a way where we care about the growth and well-being and maturation and goodness of the other person. It’s a mix of philia (brotherly love) and agape (selfless/godly love) and affection (warmth) steeped in timeless universal principles like “do unto to others as you would have done unto you.” It is the type of Love that is the antidote and antipode (opposite) of apathy, neglect, indifference, exploitativeness, impulsiveness, rashness. It’s the type of love that is not quick to judge or assume too much; it’s the type that admits when it’s wrong. Make sense, Gurty Gurt? Isn’t this the same type (or very similar to the type) of love you are pointing to, Gurty Guyt?

      Thank you for your comment, and taking the time to share your point of view. Kindest regards,

      John

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