Use all your energy in doing things that lead to peace.
Driving home after working a twelve hour shift, Lavelle grips the steering wheel and grits his teeth.
Of all days for us to be short a man on my crew! Nothing went right today. And my back and feet are killing me!
Pulling into his driveway, he slams on his brakes as his headlights sweep across the toy-strewn concrete. Flinging open his door, he strides into the middle of the toys and begins kicking them to the side. He grabs the bicycle and heaves it into the yard. It bounces and careens into his fishing boat, leaving a long scratch in the fiberglass finish.
“Aaagh!” Lavelle yells with all his might.
Getting back into his truck, Lavelle slams his door and lurches forward the final thirty feet to a stop.
His wife, Geneva, and their two children are watching t.v. in the living room. They hear Lavelle’s barking voice before the front door opens.
“How many times have I told you kids to pick up your toys out of the driveway at the end of the day?”
The children return his accusation with wide-eyed silence.
Ignoring their mute response, Lavelle continues, “And because of you I now have ruined my fishing boat. I just wish you people would do what you are told.”
As he collapses into his recliner, Geneva looks at the t.v. and says, “Somebody needs to go back outside and leave their attitude at the door.”
Ignoring Geneva, Lavelle says to his son, “Hand me the remote.”
His son tentatively proffers the remote to his angry father. Lavelle points the remote toward the t.v. and changes the channel to ESPN. This produces an immediate chorus of howls from his children.
“We were watching that.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Momma, make him change it back.”
Lavelle scowls at them. “Listen here. I work hard all day. When I get home I deserve to have a little time for myself. You kids go to your room and play.”
Both kids turn to Geneva and whine, “M-o-m.”
“You kids best go on. It’s getting close to bedtime anyway. I’ll be there in a bit.”
Droop-shouldered, the kids trudge down the hallway to their bedrooms.
Turning to Lavelle, Geneva says, “We’ve got to talk.”
“About what?” Lavelle asks, without taking his eyes off the t.v.
“Will you just look at me when we talk? Your attitude is wearing thin with me. You’re not the only one who is out working every day.”
Lavelle mutes the t.v. and looks at Geneva. “So, what’s up?”
“We were told today that our plant is closing in six weeks. I won’t be offered a severance package either.” Geneva’s voice begins to tremble. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. We just bought this house.”
Lavelle pushes himself out of his chair and throws the remote control. It hits the wall, batteries and pieces scattering across the floor.
“Well that’s just great!” Lavelle says, his voice dripping with sarcasm and anger. “That’s the perfect ending to a perfect day.” Spinning around, he heads for the front door.
“Where are you going?” Geneva asks.
“I don’t know. Anywhere but here.” And with that, he is out the door, leaving Geneva crying on the couch.
Not a very peaceful scene, is it? Unfortunately for this family, it is not an unfamiliar scene.
Depending on your perspective, you can empathize with certain members of this family. And with others, you have no sympathy whatsoever, especially Lavelle.
The question is, what needs to happen to prevent these kinds of repetitive exchanges? What can help peace reign?
Let me make five suggestions.
Humility is a difficult trait to develop. The old saying is, once you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it.
Too often people equate humility with weakness or with being taken advantage of by people. They are afraid if they kneel, they will get stepped on.
In truth, humility is a very powerful position. It is the choice to give up what I want, big or small, for the sake of someone I love. It is choosing to allow someone else’s wishes to take precedent over mine.
Sadly, Lavelle is trying to run his family like a tyrant.
2. The Ability to Compromise
Ludwig Erhard said, “A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.”
This is about finding a win-win solution, not a win-lose solution. Couples get locked into battles and draw lines, intending to “make” their partner accept their position. No one wins in that scenario – even if they’ve “won.”
The only way to have productive compromise is if both parties have a spirit of humility.
Geneva and Lavelle need to come up with a plan that allows for some “transition time” for when he comes home from work. Some time to decompress.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1.
Gentleness is all about how you approach someone. It is the opposite of harshness.
Gentleness is expressed through tone of voice, facial expression, and body language.
While working as part of an equine assisted psychotherapy team I learned that horses reflect the type of energy one approaches them with. If a horse seems anxious, it is because you are anxious. If a horse is calm, it is because you are calm.
People are much the same way.
It is no wonder that Geneva is weary of Lavelle. There is nothing gentle about the way he approached any of his family.
4. Being calm in the midst of a storm
The author of the following illustration is unknown to me, but it depicts well the importance of remaining calm in spite of a storm.
There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who painted the best picture of peace. Many artists tried.
The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.
One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare.
Above was an angry sky from which rain fell, and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest… perfect peace.
Which picture do you think won the prize?
The King chose the second picture.
Do you know why?
“Because,” explained the King, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”
At one of the scariest moments of Geneva’s life, having lost her job, Lavelle made the storm worse by his reaction.
One of the unspoken questions every couple asks regarding their spouse is, “Can I count on them?”
One of the reason sailors can head out to sea with confidence is because they know they have an anchor they can rely on, if the need arises.
Navigating the ocean of life in the ship of marriage is accomplished best when each partner can be a dependable anchor for their mate.
Dependability is demonstrated through very simple gestures: doing what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it; being accountable for your whereabouts; being available when needed.
Just like life, not every moment of marriage will be a peaceful moment. But there will be fewer stormy ones, if you’ll put these ideas into practice.