by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey
Most of us don’t like conflict and go to extremes to avoid it. We package conflict avoidance as “peacekeeping,” as if that makes it Biblical. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus said, “Blessed be the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” He did not say, peacekeepers. Had he, it would have gone something like this, “Woe to you, peacekeepers, your relationship fruit will be rotten!” Why? Because there is a significant difference between peacemaking and peacekeeping.
Peacekeeping is a fancy term for fear. It manifests as passivity, or passivity’s nasty cousin, passive aggressiveness. The passive person internalizes their pain, slaps on a smile, and prays things get better. The passive aggressive person also keeps their mouths shut, but they externalize their pain with punishing behavior to let others know they are unhappy (slammed doors and death stares), or they smile but complain behind someone’s back.
If this is you, you are poised to bear some rotten fruit. First, you will miss out on authentic relationships. Authentic relationships are risky and gritty and involve being courageous enough to let someone see the real you. If you’re a peacekeeper, you’re eliminating your chances of being accepted and loved for who you are. You have sacrificed unity for coexistence. That’s tragic.
The next fruit is exhaustion. Peacekeeping requires you to be a control freak. You must be ready to rush in and put out fires and keep a watchful eye to ensure everyone gets along. Shew! This kind of behavior may contain the crazy, but you are busier than a one-armed paper-hanger trying to keep everyone on an even keel. Last I checked, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, not yours.
And here is the most rotten fruit of them all; if you are a conflict-avoiding peacekeeper, you can’t complain about how others treat you. Why? You are not telling them the truth. If we don’t have the self-respect to advocate for our rights, we shouldn’t be surprised when others don’t either. In my business, we have a saying, “You teach people how to treat you.” To have authentic relationships, you have to share your heart, even if it means conflict, then trust God with the result. Peacekeeping has the immediate consequence of not making waves, but it’s like a stagnant pond. There’s no life there. Peacemaking is courageous, and it requires honesty. It also recognizes that what might hurt in the immediate will cause a long-term gain. There are movement and life in these relationships.
Jeremiah 6:14 says, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” You can’t keep sticking band-aids on mortal heart wounds, smile, and hope things get better. You are called to be a peacemaker, and that requires you to man up and speak up for the greater good of yourself and others. Now, suit up and make some peace, you are God’s A-Team!