- Laura Perry
If You're Trying to Live at Peace With Everyone
Then you have already failed.
I'm going to repeat this: if you are trying to live at peace with everyone, then you have already failed.
Because just by taking that position, you are living in opposition to every single principle I hold dear, and I find your position morally reprehensible. Like, on a personal level. As in, I am being really judgy of you right now. So that's one person with whom you aren't living at peace.
You may not care about living at peace with me; I get that. I don't fault you. Most of the people close to me can attest to the fact that living at peace with me is no picnic. But your "trying to live at peace" with everyone is an artificial neutrality that actually helps the powerful, not the powerless; the oppressor, not the oppressed; the abuser, not the abused. You are not living at peace. You are living in harmful delusion and willful ignorance.
Your refusing to decide, refusing to be "against," refusing to stand up for something, is, in itself, a decision, an againstness, a position - because it's a default in favor of the people who are already in charge.
By not taking sides, you are, in fact, taking sides.
In our current political and religious climate, my social media feeds and, too often, my interpersonal interactions are replete with those expressing the opinion that they don't want to be disruptive. They want to live in love and harmony with everyone and everything; they don't want to make anyone feel badly for any reason. Most frequently, this is for religious or spiritual reasons. Taking a stand disrupts their "inner peace."
I was at a spiritual gathering once when a woman in the group actually said with her outside voice and everything that she tried to avoid the news because it disrupted her spiritual balance.
Please understand that the struggle is real when I tell you it's taking everything I've got to not type a string of expletives right here that all boil down to CHECK YOUR FREAKING PRIVILEGE, LADY.
How lucky you are, that you don't have to be troubled by the news. For the horror that other people live - poverty, racism, homophobia, abuse, terminal disease, natural disasters, political persecution, genocide - to be nothing more than unpleasant sound bites that are easily avoided. Yeah, all that stuff is a real bummer. Nobody WANTS to put that on the front burner. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking, "Gee, I was feeling a little bit too cheerful, how's about I cure that with some NPR?"
We pay attention to these things, we disrupt our our comfort and spiritual balance, because these social ills are symptoms of a terminal spiritual and social malady that cannot be rectified by being ignored. Like cancer, they won't vanish on their own. And to try to live "at peace" with them (mostly by staying ignorant, or pretending that things aren't that bad), is to divorce yourself from our common humanity and then call it holiness.
I recently unfriended someone on Facebook because literally every post this person made was spiritual cotton candy, and it made my teeth hurt (mostly from clenching them). "LOVE is ENOUGH," this individual would post, or some such similar nonsense. "I LIVE in HARMONY with ALL THINGS in ALL WAYS... There is NO DARKNESS...LOVE is NOT AGAINST, ALL THINGS are LOVE and LOVE is in ALL THINGS."
If my child were to come with me with a story of being abused, and I said to her, "To be angry at this person who hurt you is to be out of harmony; just remember love is in all things, and all things are love," I would be doing absolutely incomprehensible damage to her soul and her innocence - and I wouldn't be doing the abuser, who should be held accountable, any favors, either. To refuse to say, "What happened to you was wrong and the person who did it was doing wrong," is, in itself, an act of violence. By refusing to choose the side of the victim, I would be choosing the side of the perpetrator.
If my sister's spouse beats her and she leaves him, you cannot stay friends with both of them. You cannot. And if you refuse to take sides, you are taking his side.
If my African American neighbor is shot by the police because he is in his own backyard and black at the same time (something which actually happened in California), and you do not stand up against this inexcusable violence, you are taking the side of the killers.
And please, let's not blame being mushy in taking a stand on being a follower of Jesus. The man threw the money-changers out of the temple with a whip because they were taking advantage of the poor. He himself said he came not to bring peace, but a sword. Honestly, if most churches accidentally hired Jesus as their minister, he'd get fired inside of three months for offending literally everyone in the congregation by calling them hypocrites or "whited sepulchers," or inviting prostitutes to the church potluck, or calling out the rich people for not giving to the poor, or inviting homeless people to take up the first three pews, or something similar. Jesus isn't making you spineless; you are doing that all on your own.
Some things are worth taking a stand for, even if they put you at odds with people you'd honestly rather impress.
Some of those things are big societal issues, like race-based killings, unjust laws, systemic corruption.
Most of the things that you're called to take a stand about are small, intimate, and may feel insignificant - but they aren't.
When someone treats a person you love badly, do you stand up for your loved one, or do you stay silent, in the name of peace?
When you see someone being harassed because of their religion or presumed gender identity, do you pretend you didn't see it, or do you get involved?
When you encounter someone in poverty in the streets, do you look into their eyes and treat them like a human being, or do you pretend you don't see them?
Are you able to hold space to listen to the legitimate pain, setbacks, and losses of your friends, or do you encourage them to get over things quickly so that you don't have to be uncomfortable?
Do you call out your friends when they do things that are dishonest, or unkind, or not true to their best selves?
Do you tell your coworkers you feel uncomfortable when they use homophobic language, or tell racist jokes?
Or are you trying to be "at peace" with everyone by staying willfully ignorant and deliberately obtuse?
Because if that's the situation, you aren't really at peace with anyone.
Not even yourself.