My Dad has moved out and I’ve calmed down a bit since I wrote my last missive. The space has allowed me some time for research and reflection. I’ve studied peace and conflict, and the theories are the same whether we’re talking interpersonal or international. We’re accustomed to thinking of blue-helmeted UN Peacekeepers and police officers ‘keeping the peace’, but I’ve been exploring how this works for me at home, and how actually creating peace is a better way.
Peacekeeping for me is staying in a huffy silence, rationalizing my own firm position and counting the minutes until I can be away from the person causing me pain. Other methods include distracting myself (oh let me count the ways!) or hiding or pretending or walking on eggshells.
Peacemaking is much harder, but has much better long-term outcomes. It is the way to produce inner and relational peace through forgiveness, discussion, understanding, boundaries and compromise.
Forgiveness is just the first step in peacemaking. My breakthrough came with learning that it doesn’t actually need to involve anyone else. It starts with an adjustment in my attitude: I simply choose to waste less of my life on the discomfort of anger and hurt, and more on experiencing life’s beauty and wonders. It continues with realising that life is challenging and people can hurt me, but they are no more perfect than I am (have you noticed how much more understanding we are of ourselves?).
Forgiveness is a feeling of peace that emerges over time, as we take hurt less personally, take responsibility for how we feel, and become a hero instead of a victim in the stories we tell.
Well that’s the theory. It inspires me, and I can see truth in it. I have rehearsed a sad (and sometimes funny) life story that places me in a poor little unloved victim role. I have hung on to a crazy hope that my Dad will suddenly change his personality and become lovingly picture-perfect. I have set myself up for failure with these unrealistic expectations.
Forgiving involves giving up hope that my past will change, in order to improve my future.
Today then, I start afresh. To intentionally reframe my story I’m applying words I love written by Paul in the first century:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. …And the God of peace will be with you.
I’m going to stop framing my Dad’s actions as willful signs that he doesn’t care about me and start looking for good in him. Blaming him means delegating him the power to solve my problems. Instead, I’m going to demand less from him and be grateful for whatever he gives. I’m going to think instead about the people who do love me and the ways I can be loving. Choosing to forgive makes me a courageous hero in my story! Cool huh?
I’ll let you know how I go …