Short Meditations on Peace 12. Peace in relationships
Prov 17:1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.
I suspect that relationships are the most fertile ground for upsets in our lives and therefore for absence of peace. I believe dealing with issues from the past requires a separate meditation of its own and so will deal with that in the next meditation. So, relationships in the present. How well we get on – or don’t – with other people depends on a number of issues, major ones being how we were brought up, what was expected of us, how successful we were, what we achieved and then, when we became a Christian, the extent of our knowledge of how much we are loved by God and that in itself will depend on how much we read the Bible ourselves, how much we pray, and what teaching we get from church and the experience we have of God’s people.
All of the above things contribute to how we cope with or handle other people. The fact is that people (and that includes us) are not always nice and so there, straight away, is the main cause for lack of peace. If we were able to be utterly indifferent in respect of what we thought about other people and what they say, life would be easy, we could shrug off their criticisms, their negative comments and so on, but we’re not like that. We feel. The old ‘self’ looks to other people for affirmation of identity. We want to be liked, we want to be loved and when we are not (often for reasons beyond our control), if we are not a very strong and secure person, we will find some measure of anguish and anguish means absence of peace.
If people are actively against us and perhaps even threaten us – a brother, a hostile neighbour, a superior at work, a school bully – then that ‘anguish’ I referred to may include fear. The presence of fear is yet another cause for absence of peace.
From what I have said so far, the need to build up personal security, knowing that in Christ I am loved by God and He is all for me, is paramount. Knowing why people are like they are may also help. The manager at work who is giving you grief perhaps has an unhappy home life. The hostile neighbour may be struggling with children going off the rails and feels everyone is looking at them. The snappy person may have just been told they need to go into hospital for tests. The school ground bully may have only one parent who is never at home for them. If you are a teacher you know that the child who starts acting out of character and starts acting rudely, arriving late, failing to give in homework and so on, is almost certainly one who has just heard that their parents are splitting up. Understanding people helps cope with people. But there is more. Watch this space.