Wednesday Wondering: Being a Peacemaker

What does it really take to be a peacemaker? Just wondering. Is anyone really good at being a peacemaker?

It says in the Guide to the Scriptures that a peacemaker is “A person who brings about or promotes peace (Matt. 5:9; 3 Ne. 12:9).” I get the part about promoting peace, but to actually bring it about is a little harder.

To understand more what it means to be a peacemaker, I refer to President Thomas S. Monson’s talk from the Priesthood session of General Conference in October of 2009 entitled, “School Thy Feelings, O My Brother.”

In President Monson’s talk, I learned that “Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything” (Lawrence Douglas Wilder, quoted in “Early Hardships Shaped Candidates,” Deseret News, Dec. 7, 1991, A2.)

We’ve all felt anger. It can come when things don’t turn out the way we want. It might be a reaction to something which is said of us or to us. We may experience it when people don’t behave the way we want them to behave. Perhaps it comes when we have to wait for something longer than we expected. We might feel angry when others can’t see things from our perspective. There seem to be countless possible reasons for anger.

To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry.

…we are all susceptible to those feelings which, if left unchecked, can lead to anger. We experience displeasure or irritation or antagonism, and if we so choose, we lose our temper and become angry with others. Ironically, those others are often members of our own families—the people we really love the most.

School thy feelings, O my brother;
Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings; there is power
In the cool, collected mind.
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind. 8
This last poem reminded me of a section in my health textbook about emotional intelligence. I found it invariably profound to consider the discipline it takes to master emotions to this depth. But, I imagine many fights would be avoided if people could master emotion.

“Emotional intelligence can be defined as the degree to which we can skillfully and adaptively deal with our emotions and those of others.
“More specifically, this involves the following:
1. Recognizing feelings as they occur
2. Responding to feelings with neither impulsive, aggressive reactivity, nor suppression, denial, distraction, or avoidance
3. Being able to tolerate and contain strong emotions and soothe yourself in the presence of powerful feelings
4. Being able to use the energy of strong emotions to motivate yourself and respond skillfully to the situation at hand
5. Being able to perceive the content of feelings in order to connect the emotion to its source and understand why you are feeling a particular emotion
6. Being able to recognize and bear the feelings of others without needing to distance yourself or dissuade the other person from having their feelings
7. Being able to persist in the face of fear or frustration and cultivate resilience
8. Being able to delay gratification
9. Being able to be curious and stay open to feelings rather than close down, tighten up, or turn away from emotions
10. Being able to express a wide range of emotions in a way that is natural and to a degree that is appropriate to the particular situation

“How do you cultivate emotional intelligence? The key lies in the ability to develop the overarching skill of mindfulness – the ability to dispassionately observe thoughts and feelings as they occur and while they’re occurring. This skill is aided by culivating a “witness” or a “watcher” in your mind and noting the arising of strong reactions with a certain detachment. By holding our reactions in a larger mental space we can make more measured, wise, and skillful responses to the situation at hand.
“Mindfulness can be cultivated by simply paying more attention to the operation of our minds, slowing down our lives enough to make more detailed observations, and staying in the moment so as to maximize awareness of our selves and others. Although we often have a limited ability to control external events, it turns out that we have a great deal of ability to discipline, focus, and train our minds. With practice, we not only can become more emotionally intelligent but also may be able to cultivate an ongoing peace of mind that many people find so elusive” (Core Concepts of Health, Insel, pg 101).

No one is perfect, except for Christ. Only through Him can we truly possess the pure love of Christ: charity, and become peacemakers. I believe relationships can heal. It requires faith, and the willingness to bear the yoke of grace together with the Savior, and become like a child.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)

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Wednesday Wellness: Humility

Being humble doesn’t mean being weak. Being humble simply means acknowledging God’s hand in my life and attributing all of life’s gifts to His tender mercy. Humility even means attributing life’s trials to His perfect understanding of what I need and what I am capable of.
After losing so much weight, my sweet mother sent me a note saying, “don’t let it get to your head.” At first I thought she was suggesting that I was being prideful, or bragging about my success. Then I realized that what she really meant was to stay humble and not forget where my success had come from. She wanted to make sure that I wasn’t getting lazy because things were going so well, or to slack off in a false sense of security. She has a very good point.
It would be so easy to give up. It would be easy to fall back into old habits and start being careless about my health or my responsibilities. It is so much easier to sit around or to eat junk all the time, to give up on exercising and trying to eat well. It is ingrained in my nature – human nature – to take the path of least resistance, to give in to carnal cravings or make excuses. It’s natural, but I don’t think giving into my nature is what is best for my long-term success or happiness. I know it would be easy to give in to these things, but I can’t let down the divinity within me that is rooting me on to keep going and never give up! I have to acknowledge that as a steward of my body and mind I cannot forsake the knowledge I’ve been given to care for this gift that God has given me. Besides, at any moment I could lose everything. I could become ill. I could get injured and lose my capacity to do basic functions. I could become unable to care for myself or my family at any moment, and the inevitability of the end of this life constantly looms like a shadow, even at my age. Life is a gift that can be taken away at any moment.
I know that seems depressing. It happens to people all the time. I’m always impressed by people who take on physical challenges and overcome them as though it were not a handicap at all, but a great catalyst to success! (See Paul Schulte, and Stephanie Nielsen) I don’t know if I have that much strength within me to do that! I don’t want to find out either! So I live each day in grace knowing that I must do my very best and the Lord will do the rest!

Elder Bednar said it best in “The Tender Mercies of the Lord”:

The Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness and obedience enable us to receive these important gifts and, frequently, the Lord’s timing helps us to recognize them…We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance (see 1 Nephi 1:20).