When I was a little girl I was taught to be a peacemaker. Keep everyone happy, don't offend anyone, don't make waves, be neutral, accept people for who they are, be non-judgmental, and be quiet and compassionate. Many of these things on the surface seem like wonderful ideals. I still tout silence, compassion, acceptance, and being non-offensive. However, I believe that these ideals can be used to such an extent that instead of creating more peace, they actually create less peace.
Let me give you a few examples. In my first marriage when my husband would lose his temper yelling at me and breaking things, I sought to understand him, to be compassionate, and to not judge him. I put my own self at mental and emotional harm (repeatedly) in order to keep my (internal) status as the peacemaker. However, I didn’t create more peace in my home. In fact, by not standing up and saying, “No.” the peace in my home gradually decreased until I was so broken and afraid that I left the house in secret with my small child and the clothes on my back.
I once worked with a client who loved her adult son so much, and wanted to accept him for who he was, be nonjudgmental, not make waves in the family, and above all give him ‘unconditional love’ that she allowed him to stay a part of their lives even as he got deeper and deeper into doing and selling drugs. By not standing up and saying, “No.” others in this family (even her grandchildren) were exposed to drugs (and some became addicts) because of this person. The peace in their family was not increased by these common ‘peacemaker’ traits, but rather, over years the peace decreased.
There once was a woman named Rosa Parks, and many like her, who every day stood or moved to the back of the bus so that white people could have the front 10 seats of the bus, as designated by law. By doing this, they did not increase the peace in our country. Then one day, December 1st, 1955 to be exact, she said “No.” By saying no she changed the course of history. She increased the peace in our country, and for her entire race.
Now, in our current times, there is this guy named Colin Kaepernick who started a movement of kneeling during the national anthem. He said, “No.” to standing to honor an anthem that was written when slavery still existed and contains a third (not-often sung) third verse that talks about how slaves cannot escape the “terror of flight or the gloom of the grave”.
When asked why knelt he said, “I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Colin’s statement explains that he felt that it was morally out of alignment for him to stand for a song that touted the land of the free when many people of color still have fewer rights in our country. It would be saying that something was what it was not (what we, in essence, call lying), and so he took a knee.
When a player is hurt on the field, the other players take a knee to show respect for that injured player. Kaepernick and the other men who followed are taking a knee to show respect for our injured nation. I believe that this will also go down in history as one of the Civil Rights movements that brought our country more peace.
Building healthy boundaries and learning to say no is paramount to creating more peace in our lives (and in our world). This takes courage to do, and in order to do it, we must examine who we are and what we stand for. We must be willing to make our morals visible in our actions. We must be willing to take criticism. We must learn that saying no and having boundaries is a part of love not in opposition to it.
It is important to note that sometimes the road switching from allowing everything to having healthy boundaries can be bumpy. When I first left my ex-husband and started saying no, things go so bumpy that I had to get a restraining order for my son and I. Right now, I see Kaepernick’s actions creating waves, putting our country on a bumpy road. I think it’s great because I’ve witnessed time and again (with myself and my clients) that change is bumpy, but new (better) results are on the other side.
What are you currently allowing in your life in the name of ‘peacekeeping’? What are your actions really creating? Is it increasing the peace in your life and in the world? Are you willing to be courageous enough to learn how to create healthy boundaries?
You are allowed to say "No" anytime you are being treated with injustice or you witness another person being treated with injustice. At work, At home, With family or strangers. You are always allowed to say, "No."
Dr. King said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”.
If you, like me, were taught to be a peacekeeper, I challenge you to redefine what that means. Are you promoting the absence of tension, or are you fighting for true peace, which is justice for all?
Mindy Amita Aisling
ICF Life Coach,
NFPT Fitness Trainer,
OMA Certified Mediator
Mindy Aisling is a certified life and business coach in Bend, OR, exceeding all of the educational requirements & training set forth by the ICF.
She has worked with such organizations as St. Charles Hospital, Soroptimists, The Dispute Resolution Center, Olympic Medical Center, Americorps, and Juvenile and Family Services.
She has been featured in the New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Bend Bulletin, The Peninsula Daily News, KOMO 4 TV, The Oregonian and many more. You can learn more about Mindy here.
Mindy offers professional, affordable online coaching to clients around the world, and local coaching to clients in Bend, Oregon.
Licensed and Insured