In the summer of 1955, singer-songwriter Sy Miller and wife Jill Jackson, introduced a song to a group of teenagers at a California mountain retreat. This multi-cultural group, purposely chosen because of their diversity, was the first to hear and sing what would become an American standard: “Let there be peace on earth,” the familiar song starts, “and let it begin with me.”
Maybe it is hackneyed phrase, bordering on corny, yet its truth remains. Peace begins with the individual; it begins with you and with me. There is no chance of peace coming to “the world” until individuals choose that path for themselves. Certainly it is a path. As Gandhi said often, “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”
That is, if you want peace – for yourself, for those you love, and for the world around you – then be peaceful. Engage in those practices that foster nonviolence. Be amicable. Be harmonious. Go in the direction of grace and reconciliation. Become a person of tranquility.
Just as the Apostle Paul instructed the Romans, “Do all that you can to live in peace.” Do this, as a disciplined, daily walking of the peaceful path, and almost like magic, peace will begin to well up within you and radiate from you. No, it won’t be all at once, but it will come, for you and for those around you.
A friend explained it like this to me: Being controlled by anger, hatred, fear, vengeance, or uncertainty is like someone suffering from a crippling migraine. What does one do when suffering this way? He or she takes the necessary medication; lies down in quiet, dark room; or seeks some other remedy.
Then, after a while, relief comes, but it’s almost always gradual, not sudden. “Oh, wow, it doesn’t hurt anymore,” says the one who once suffered, and it is impossible to say exactly when the relief came, but it did.
Peace works the same way. Find ways to let go of resentment. Seek quiet refuge away from those things and persons who are like poison and do nothing but increase your anxiety. Release the compulsive need to control others, to take revenge, or punish those who have hurt you.
Take the medication of peace, and in time, one day, you’ll get out of bed and feel a light easiness you have not previously known. By practicing peace, you will end up being and becoming much more peaceful as a result.
Returning to the Apostle Paul, he says it like this: “God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds.” The word guard means “sentinel” or “guard,” as in a fortified tower or a castle. This is the ultimate outcome: God’s peace, when invited in and genuinely pursued, will stand as a safeguard for your heart and mind.
Peace will create a boundary around you, providing safe space, protecting you from so many anxieties, internal and without. Indeed, peace “will begin” with you, and from there, spread to the world.