Keeping the Peace is NOT the same as Being at Peace
Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Living your life without running into an emotional conflict at least once is both highly improbable and quite unhealthy. Conflict is the perfect opportunity to create a better understanding of our differences and is a way to open yourself (and others) up to important transformations in life. Conflict, however, is not necessarily going to be a comfortable experience or an easy one to come across. In fact, conflict is messy, painful, emotionally overwhelming at times and still very much a basic need to learn how to thrive in life. Please bear in mind that I am not saying that you should be experiencing conflict all the time. Life is about a lot more than just conflict. However, avoiding conflict to keep the peace, does little to ensure we actually are at peace.
The fact of the matter is that as different as peace and conflict are, there is an unavoidable relationship between the two that we will be exploring below.
Keeping the Peace
Now, let's be honest. It has a nice ring to it. Keeping the peace. Sounds noble, heroic, even selfless. Do not get me wrong though, the motivation behind doing so, can have some of those characteristics I just mentioned, or at the very least an illusory state that makes us think we do. The bottom-line is that whether it is A or B that moves us, keeping the peace is most of the time something that is neither enriching for your life or even others' lives.
As someone who has kept the peace for a large portion of his life and sometimes I still do at times, one of the biggest things that I noticed happened to me as I kept on keeping the peace was the reduction of my voice, my personal power and even my self-esteem. While things remained calm for the most part outside of me, I learned to keep my feelings silent and let things slide for the 'greater good' of the relationship. What I felt and experienced was always second to keeping the peace, or rather it was I who deemed myself as second to it.
It would be years later that I would realize that by keeping the peace, I was NOT serving myself or others. Sure, like I said, things would be calmer for a short while, but the underlying issue would still be there. My repressed emotions would still be there.
Whether your motivation for keeping the peace was: for others to not feel uncomfortable or experience pain (physical or emotional), or for less selfless reasons like wanting to procrastinate your feelings or wanting to avoid a situation; there was price that was paid when a decision to negate conflict was made.
That price we pay might not be noticeable right away, but when we repeat this pattern frequently it starts to affect us in more ways than one. Our emotional reservoir fills up with emotions like anger and sadness. We are more stressed and anxious than we should be AND ironically we end up feeling anything but peace.
The question now is what do others pay when we keep the peace, because they do pay, as well. By being silent, we are condoning others' dysfunctional behaviors, sometimes including their self-harm. By not being true to who we are, what we feel and what we want, we end up giving them an empty version of ourselves that only creates a wider gap between us. While we can see them and feel them, they can only meet us on a superficial level: relating with this manufactured tranquility rather than with our true selves. By not saying NO when we mean to, we are also slowly reinforcing them to overreach on the personal space of others and not respect their boundaries.
If we look at what is gained and what is lost in the process of keeping the peace, we might start noticing that when we keep the peace, we end up having short-term rewards and long-term complications.
Healing through Conflict
This phrasing here sounds like an oxymoron. How is "healing through conflict" a thing? Let us re-examine the transformative nature of conflict in our lives, and for that, I want to go back to one of the first things I said about conflict:
Conflict is the perfect opportunity to create a better
understanding of our differences and is a way to open
yourself (and others) up to important transformations in life.
Conflict is the natural progression that occurs when we clash with others' different motivations, behaviors and belief-systems. How we deal with it will determine whether it arrives to a destructive conclusion or a constructive one.
It is entirely normal for two human being who love and respect each other to have differences and when these collide, it is important to resolve the situation by being upfront with our feelings and thoughts, without disrespecting the other party. That is easier said than done.
In fact, where 'keeping the peace' has short-term rewards and long-term complications, 'healing through conflict' usually has short-term complications and long-term rewards.
Saying what we mean and feel can be messy, especially when we are in the heat of the moment, but it does not have to be destructive in nature. We can disagree and lay out our points passionately without the need to attack others and that even if we do, we can be humble and proactive enough to offer a needed apology whether it is accepted or not. Healthy couples argue, healthy families get into ideological AND mundane fights, coworkers and business partners can have creative and procedural differences and clash about it. Conflict managed in a healthy way brings about important change.
When we do not argue or clash, things can stay the same indefinitely, which can lead us to build giant reservoirs of emotions like resentment, frustration and anxiety, which later explode (or even implode).
The factor that will contribute to transforming conflict into a healthy practice is the inclusion of ACTIVE LISTENING. It is very common when in a passionate fight to be so consumed by what we think is right that we usually stop listening to the other person as a whole. It gets worse when instead of listening, we start attacking them with insults or pointing out the behaviors we disagree with, which ends up eroding our relationships instead making them grow. When we listen, we do not have to agree, but we must at least make an effort to understand and appreciate the other person's viewpoint.
The end result can still be throwing the door on our way out, but the added peace of mind from having put yourself out there, said what you needed and listened and validated the other person will stay with you in the long run. Even if the initial heated conversation did not resolve the issue right away. Talking about our pain can then be brought up in a calmer moment and the initial discomfort that we sometimes try to avoid, subsides.
By talking about what we are not comfortable with AND MUTUALLY LISTEN to what the other party is not comfortable with, we create a fertile middle ground for constructive life-changing agreements that can improve our quality of life and strengthen our relationships.
Being at Peace
This brings me to the final point in this writing piece, because "Being at Peace" is more than just rising up to conflict in a constructive way. Being at peace is also about picking your battles. We do not avoid conflict, but we do not get trapped in it either.
Being at peace requires us to be upfront about who we are, what we need and what we are about. It does not require to be necessarily liked or respected, because we do that for ourselves. It means looking at conflict as a means for growth and not avoiding it AND being at peace means letting go when we need to let go. Sometimes it does not matter how much we love this other person: if there is always conflict no matter how much we talk about our issues and listen to each other, it might mean it is time to let that person go, so that both you and them can be happy.
A lot of couples stay together for many more years than they want to just to keep the peace, but the situation does not resolve until they finally let go of each other. In families, sometimes we need some time away to realize what has been going on, what we value and who we are without that person, so that I know who I am when we are finally together.
Finally Being at Peace like many other things in life is not a final destination. You can experience it one day and engage in destructive conflict the next. It is definitely something to be mindful of and a reference point to look forward to, so that the more we strive for being at peace the more authentic our relationships will be and the happier we will feel. Stay safe, take care and be kind to yourself (which sometimes means... SPEAK UP).
The views expressed in this article are not to be taken as hard truths, but rather as flexible guidelines. These views are merely personal conjectures based on my own experiences, my coaching background and/or existing coaching theorems.
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