Maybe we’re not having a fight with our missionary companion, maybe we’re not giving the silent treatment to our roommate, maybe we’re not bullying our spouse or sharply criticizing our children, but how often do we use sarcasm, or caustic negativity, or “just kidding” demeaning comments to others? How often do we light the spark and fan the flames of contention? How does that uplift, edify, and strengthen those around us? How can we become peacemakers amid conflict?
I don’t make many guarantees in therapy, but I do guarantee that there will be conflicts in relationships. There are conflicts because we have different perspectives based on how we were raised, our different histories, backgrounds, and influences, and based on different expectations. Renowned marriage counselors Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman did a survey and found that 69% of marital conflicts are unresolvable. They learned that couples who are happy together learn to manage their conflicts, prioritize their marriage over their conflicts, repair their interactions when they make errors or say hurtful things, and de-escalate if it does become negative. They move gently toward compromise or a respectful, safe space to honor each other’s differences. (Gottman.com) How much does that approach sound like being peacemakers?
In the April 2023 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson in his talk “ Peacemakers Needed” shared his experience of being with a surgeon who erupted in anger. “In the middle of his tantrum, he threw his scalpel loaded with germs. It landed in my [President Nelson’s] forearm!” “In that very hour, I promised myself that whatever happened in my operating room, I would never lose control of my emotions. I also vowed that day never to throw anything in anger—whether it be scalpels or words.”
Whenever we are tempted to control, criticize, show contempt, or become contentious, we can ask ourselves the following questions: 1) What am I trying to prove? 2) Who am I trying to prove it to? 3) How will I feel about my words and actions in 10 minutes, 10 months, or 10 years? 4) How will this bring me peace? 5) How will it bring peace to others? 5) How will it increase my ability to be a disciple of Christ?
Here is a summary of President Nelson’s counsel: [In addition to reading this summary, I would encourage you to read and study his entire talk]:
- Be examples of how to interact with others—especiallywhen we have differences of opinion.
- Turn the other cheek.
- Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
- Love one another.
- Interact with others in a higher, holier way.
- If there is anything “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” that we can say about another person—whether to his face or behind her back—let that be our standard of communication.
- Choose reconciliation. Model how to manage honest differences of opinion with mutual respect and dignified dialogue.
- Choose charity. Charity is the antidote to contention. Charity is the spiritual gift that helps us to cast off the natural man, who is selfish, defensive, prideful, and jealous. Charity is the principal characteristic of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Charity defines a peacemaker.
- Choose humility. When we humble ourselves before God and pray with allthe energy of our hearts, God will grant us charity.
“Now,” President Nelson continues, “I am not talking about “peace at any price.” I am talking about treating others in ways that are consistent with keeping the covenant you make when you partake of the sacrament. You covenant to always remember the Savior. In situations that are highly charged and filled with contention, I invite you to remember Jesus Christ. Pray to have the courage and wisdom to say or do what He would. As we follow the Prince of Peace, we will become His peacemakers.”
“If you are serious about helping to gather Israel and about building relationships that will last throughout the eternities, now is the time to lay aside bitterness. Now is the time to cease insisting that it is your way or no way. Now is the time to stop doing things that make others walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting you. Now is the time to bury your weapons of war. If your verbal arsenal is filled with insults and accusations, now is the time to put them away. You will arise as a spiritually strong man or woman of Christ.”
President Nelson concludes with a promise, an invitation, and his blessing: “My dear brothers and sisters, the best is yet to come for those who spend their lives building up others. Today I invite you to examine your discipleship within the context of the way you treat others. I bless you to make any adjustments that may be needed so that your behavior is ennobling, respectful, and representative of a true follower of Jesus Christ. I bless you to replace belligerence with beseeching, animosity with understanding, and contention with peace.”
May the Lord bless each of us as we strive to follow the counsel of our dear prophet, always remember our Savior, and become His peacemakers.