3 Keys To Being an Instrument of Peace Right Now

3 Keys To Being an Instrument of Peace Right Now

On my first day of graduate school our professor set us all in a circle and had us share why we decided to pursue a degree in Counseling. There were lots of different reasons expressed, but the most common one I heard was something like, “People tell me I give good advice. So I want to get a degree in counseling.”

After everyone shared the professor made a statement I’ll never forget:

“There are two important things to remember when it comes to helping people. First, it’s the relationship that heals, not your philosophy or intelligence. Second, the relationship must be founded on listening and understanding.”

As someone with an undergraduate degree in Political Science this was a completely new paradigm for me. I was conditioned to believe that you win people over through logical argument and strength of ideas. The idea of listening seemed like a passive response to real problems.

I’m convinced that gentle professor’s statement is the key to helping us heal our country right now. We need to build relationships and listen.

Having spent years counseling and coaching people I’ve found the book of James offers the best advice I’ve learened when it comes to how to practically deal with the anger and frustration we are all facing:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

I’m pretty convinced those words aren’t in random order. They are a three-part strategy:

1. Set your default to listening. Make it your first response. Listen with no agenda other than to understand the deep motivations and drives of the person across from you who is created in God’s image. Even if they say something that you completely disagree with, just listen and try to understand.

Most of us think we are good at listening. But the fact is, our listening is more akin to gathering ammunition for a rebuttal. That’s not listening. That is debating. Which is precisely what we don’t need now. We’ve been debating for years now. Now it’s time for healing and calming the anger. This happens face-to-face. Turn off the phone and spend some real time listening to people.

2. Slow down. Real, compassion-driven listening requires time. Build time for people into your schedule. Make it a priority. Don’t schedule meetings back to back to back. Leave some space for connecting. Create some margin to really listen and really process what is being said. Time is the most important asset anyone has. The best investment of time is usually in people. When we give time, we show people we care.

3.Maybe speak. Or maybe don’t speak. There are only a few situations in life where not speaking does more harm than opening your mouth. We are so used to a constant stream of noise that we fear leaving blank space in conversations. You don’t have to reply with something witty or insightful all the time. Hold your responses. Only speak when you are absolutely certain it will add value to building the relationship.

According to James, this strategy calms and slows anger. It brings peace.

Whether you won or lost in this election, as Christians this is not the time for proving a point. And it’s really not the time to gloat. This is a time for getting really quiet and listening.

“But if we are all listening who will do the talking?” Great question! Maybe no one. But if that actually does happen, can you imagine the peace that could ensue if we were all just silent together? Maybe we’d all come to really understand what God means when he says, Be still and know that I am God… (Ps. 46:10) Maybe we’d actually come to know God better.

But my suspicion is that there will never be a shortage of talking and shouting and yelling. So the quickest way for us to be instruments of peace is to simply listen to the anger and frustration around us. Invite someone you totally disagree with out to coffee. Turn off the phone. Look into the eyes of the other person. Don’t try to solve things. Set your agenda aside and just listen.