After grumbling her way through some chores one day, my seven-year-old daughter sat down in a huff and wished for peace. Then she jumped onto the subject of world peace and asked me why it didn’t exist. As I looked at her, thinking of a way to explain so she’d understand, inspiration struck.
What’s the world made up of, I asked. Countries. And what are countries made up of? States and cities and towns, and so on till we reached people. It’s not so much the places that make up the world, as much as the people. That’s where peace begins, with people like you and me, I told her.
When we each do our jobs and fulfil our responsibilities with love and understanding for one another, we become a peaceful, well-functioning family. When the families around us do the same, we become a peaceful, well-functioning community; and then a city, a state and so on till we have a peaceful, well-functioning world.
Overly simplistic? Perhaps. Then again, maybe it really is that simple. And we’re the ones who complicate it. We’re each of us beset every day, every moment by temptation, in the form of our pride, greed, envy and all the other deadly sins. When we yield to them, instead of mastering them, is where peace begins to crumble.
I asked my daughter, what usually happens when she doesn’t do her chores, say, clean up her toys? I remind her nicely a few times and usually that works. But when she refuses to listen, the situation sometimes deteriorates to raised voices and tears and threats of things she likes being taken away. And there goes the peace of the house, all because of one member’s refusal to follow the rules.
The same problem plagues my maternal family as well. Whatever school of thought you subscribe to, the basic rules on maintaining family ties, supporting and caring for one another, especially the old and vulnerable, are universal and constant. However, for Son 2, Daughter 2 and their spouses, it is only the peace within their homes that matters. They want to be left free to live as they please, regardless of the pain and suffering their self-absorbed neglect inflicts on their old mother.
Anyone who knows Daughter 1, my mom, knows that she’s a fair person who stands for what is right. She will not compromise the ethical or spiritual standards she and her siblings were raised with, and she expected the same of them. However, their spouses for their own nefarious purposes, instigated a division that her two youngest siblings complied with. Son 1 was the only one who fought against the unconscionable demands of his spouse.
My grandmother Mercy then laments the lack of peace among her children, but doesn’t have the will or the strength to face the underlying issue: that greed and ambition have superseded peace and familial unity. When my mom tries to address the problem, she is branded the villain, even by her own mother. Because my grandmother’s idea of peace is to keep quiet, pretend there isn’t a problem and suffer in silence.
So how do we bring about real peace? The quote above from the Bible provides a starting point. Note that it is full of action words: “turn” from evil; “do” good; “seek” peace; “pursue” it. Therefore, peace is not something we can magically possess just by wishing for it, or by ignoring the problems around us. Genuine peace can only be attained when we each strive for it through our actions: learning to conquer our temptations, doing our jobs and carrying out our responsibilities in all our roles. Only then can we bring about peace for all.