Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Conflict avoidance is not peacemaking

I've tended not to spend a lot of time thinking about the Beatitudes, other than wondering exactly what "poor in spirit" is supposed to mean. I was put off them by meeting too many Catholics who put more emphasis on the Beatitudes so they wouldn't have to pay attention to other moral teachings such as, say, the ten commandments. Trust me, I'm the furthest thing from a morally rigid legalist but I can smell bullshit when it's being offered around as wisdom.

Recently, I got to witness some conflict avoidance in action though and saw just how little it has to do with peacemaking. And that got me thinking

The Greek original for "peacemaker" is also a compound word and one of the words means "to make". To make peace requires action. Avoidance is not action. The other half of the Greek word does indeed mean "peace" but it means peace in the sense of "to make whole". Again, avoidance tactics will not, because they cannot, make anyone or anything whole.

For several generations now, going back at least to the 1950s, a lot of Christians have tended to read "peacemaker" as a person who avoids conflict. The word has come to mean a person who is peaceable rather than anyone you'd rely on in any kind of conflict. These are harmless sorts of people—nice guys—but they are useless to themselves or anyone else.

That was obvious in the painful interchange I observed. The conflict avoider was so desperate to not be in a fight that he sold himself out at the first sign of conflict. And I thought, a man who won't stand up for himself, wouldn't stand up for anyone else either. But it gets worse. The person he caved to read his conflict avoidance as weakness and immediately upped the level of aggression attacking him again and even more severely. It got really pathetic after that.

A peacemaker has to stand for something and, odd as this may seem, they have to fight for that something.

No comments:

Post a Comment