"Protect Your Peace At All Costs" Comes At A Cost
The other day I saw this meme come across my social media feed. I've heard the expression, "protect your peace at all costs" before, but seeing it this time really boinked me on the head.
I get the spirit behind this... I think. This is a pithy quote that evolved out of the cultural swamp from previous generations where marginalized people were told to shut up and put up. At its best, it is a reflexive response to mores that indeed need course correction. Put differently, it is essentially saying, don't put up with other people's BS.
The problem is we all have BS of some form or fashion. (Welcome to the human race!) So, if our go-to platitude is "Don't disturb your peace with other people's BS," then we are chewing our own tail off.
Firstly, Peace is not a commodity and it does not belong to "me." Peace is like Love; it belongs to all of us. As such, there is a responsibility to consider the whole of humanity when attributing my feelings or state of being to Peace. Like Love, it is a choice to participate in, not a thing to possess. It is not mine to horde from others or mine to "protect."
Rather, Peace is a stasis in which– despite oppositional tendencies– we experience harmony and contentment. Peace is the antidote to imbalance. Peace preserves the sacred suspension between forces that would seek to divide us, either inter- or intrapersonally. In that suspension, we are free to let go of our attachments-to-desired-outcome and trust the flow of life.
This leads me to the first part of the meme about "being done" and not being mad, yada yada. This meme suggests that it is appropriate just to render people or situations dead-to-you upon the point where your "peace" is disrupted. Perhaps this is my oversensitivity due to having been raised by and in relationship with narcissists (who only view you as valuable until you no longer serve the purpose they have for you) but...*
When exactly are we supposed to be "done"? And why can't I feel anger or be bothered?
Let's take a step back and look at this from a wider lens rather than personally. Example: If 19th-century abolitionists were only concerned about their personal "peace," as in what made their personal circumstances comfortable and non-threatened, they would not have worked against their own self-interests to help abolish slavery. The same goes for the fight for women's rights, racial equality, and a host of other social issues today.
We must not confuse comfort with Peace. And, it is because such courageous people had righteous anger and were rightfully bothered that they were motivated enough to act, despite the very real dangers to their lives for taking subversive cultural positions.
Seeking true Peace transcends our personal space. It takes us on the journey that advocates for Peace for all. Sometimes this may mean that we don't continue to invite unhealthy people or circumstances into our lives. Sometimes, the most loving thing we can do that will lead to greater Peace for all is to refuse others' energy in our lives. This puts the responsibility back on them to address whatever the problem is.
... and notice that is a big but... We should only take that position after a thorough inventory of ourselves, ideally over a span of time. Otherwise, if this is our go-to reaction to any situation that makes us uncomfortable, then we are hobbling ourselves personally and as a species. I think of all the times that I made people's lives uncomfortable for a moment or a season, but they loved me through it. Had they been "done" with me, I would not have experienced Love and been afforded the opportunity to grow in an affirming way.
This cuts both ways too. Loving someone who disrupts our present sense of peace can serve to grow us. We learn greater empathy, compassion, boundaries, and so on. We are often forced to face our own personal demons or misaligned priorities. We realize that the wave of Life courses through us. It does not happen to us.
Note how I used a lowercase "p" when speaking of Peace as it relates to our perception or feelings of Peace. Small-p peace is our personal association with Peace, which I believe to really be more about our comfort. That is why peace is not the same as Peace. It is like a shadow of the real thing. But peace can be a gateway to Peace when handled responsibly.
If we all lived in a personal peace bubble, we'd be afraid of each other. This ironically is Fear-based, which is antithetical to Peace. Such cocooning of ourselves leads to alienation, isolation, and loneliness. And lord knows, there's more than enough of that these days.**
Peace For All
If I were to rewrite this meme, it would not be nearly as punchy. But here it goes.
DISCERN your peace. Discern when it is time to get in the trenches or time to walk away. Sometimes other people or circumstances disrupt your peace. This can be a GIFT that evolves you, if you allow it to work that way. Growth is often borne from disruption or conflict and is best nurtured with Love.
If you are angry or bothered, ask yourself, why? A seasoned soul will be able to discern if these feelings are pushing you in the direction of truth and Love or conversely, egoic self-interest. And if you're unsure, do the best you can and learn from the experience. That's all any of us can do.
Discern and ask Why?
If you have to make practical choices like whether or not to disengage with a person, ask yourself what is the best course of action for the advancement of Love and Peace, not just for you but for all. Admittedly, discernment floats in a gray area much of the time. Sometimes there is not a clear right or wrong path. But the more we practice conscious discernment that is aimed at the Peace and Love that is greater than us–when we realize that we participate in Peace and do not consume it, then we are consumed by Peace.
Peace is OURS to channel and OURS to protect.
The Fine Print
* This is an example of my own BS. I carry around some baggage that even though I desperately want to shed it, it rears its fugly head every now and then. Such BS can have very practical ramifications. It takes immense discipline to keep it at bay and I slip a gear more often than I wish.
** Check out the recent Surgeon General's report on Our Epidemic of Isolation and Loneliness.