Contributed by Jody McVittie
After the startling deaths in Seattle over the last few weeks, I find myself in a reflective mode. I’m curious about how easy it is to move to a place of fear and a sense that building more walls might give us more “peace.” We are “hard-wired” for survival and something happens when our perceived sense of safety (for ourselves and those we love) is startled and brought to question.
The peace we long for seems elusive at times like this. Where is it? I get annoyed when I hear that “all you have to do” to find peace is to look inside. Those words make the process sound like it is supposed to be easy. As if you could just close your eyes and go on an internal journey easily marked by signs that say, “Peace: this way.” My body provides no such signs and I get impatient.
I’m no longer so confident that I “know” what peace is. My old version of peace looked like tranquility, the absence of conflict, the stillness of a lake in the absence of wind. (You can add the beautiful sunset if you want.) I don’t have a new version of peace – but the exploration is going in a different direction. The word peace in English comes from Latin pax (peace), which derives from a Proto-Indo-European pak meaning “to covenant or agree, to fasten” (the same root as the word pact). In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, which had no vowels, the word peace, shalom, is written the same as the word shalem, whole.
I think peace is a community affair. Sure we can create a semblance of peace by building big walls around ourselves– blocking the wind from our little corners of the lake, but it isn’t real peace. Peace is about the agreements we make with each other, about how we fasten ourselves together and become whole. It is about how we learn to live with each other so that we can appreciate the moments of being in between the moments of doing. Is there some internal work that helps this process? Yes. And as parents we need to teach our children skills to do this with others too.
Here are a couple of questions that can plant the seeds of peace in our families:
What would happen if we waited a little bit to solve this problem? When our nervous system is in fight mode, it is hard to breathe and get other perspectives. This question is a great mantra. To use it effectively make sure that you hear the problem first. Connect by listening to the feeling instead of the details. “It looks like you are really mad and what your sister did is really unfair.” Listen to the story – and then propose a pause. It’s a great question for adults too. (Ever pushed “send” on an email you later wished you hadn’t sent?)
Do you want to be effective or right? This is a challenging question for children – and only works after they have calmed down. When they come back for help problem solving it helps them sort out their long-term goal. Is it still about proving their point? Or are they looking for resolution?
Would you like to have some more tools – and have some fun in the process? Sound Discipline is growing and we want your help. For $15 you can join us June 14th (Thursday) for an evening devoted to building peace in our families and our community. The proceeds go to our work building the skills for connection and peace in schools. Your presence starts the process. Register or download the flier. Share it. Bring a friend!