At this time of year we sing: “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”. We long for that promised “Peace and goodwill towards men”. Peace starts within individual hearts. We each contribute toward peace on earth by seeking that peace which dwells within.
When we think of peace we think of stillness. We think of calm, quiet, serenity. There is an absence of things which cause trouble, anxiety, disturbance, and disruption.
The Source which Seeks to Destroy Peace
In our quest for peace, it is helpful to recognize the source which seeks to destroy that peace.
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Nephi 11:29-30, see also 2 Nephi 9:9, Helaman 16:22, D & C 10:63)
The image of stirring is interesting. What happens when we stir up something – a solution, a soup? First, it requires an agitating force – that would be Satan or anyone influenced by him. Whenever we experience those things which disturb our peace, he is the likely source – the one stirring us up. Stirring disturbs. It “breaks up” what has been quiet or still. It destroys order.
When we are stirred up internally it results in disturbing emotions – worry, anxiety, irritation, anger. We dig them up from the bottom of our hearts and memories. We dwell on the negative. We often get into cycles of repeatedly rehashing things. That spoon keeps going around and around. Even without an external heat source, we generate our own – we get heated up by agitation.
What happens when you are not the only one who is “stirred up”? We often seek out others who are like us and together we stir each other up. We mutually reinforce our negative feelings and justify our negative actions. We look for someone else to blame. Anger builds. We have contention. Contention can be acted out in heated verbal exchanges. It can fuel violence. It can turn to hate. It can destroy – not only peace, but people.
My Own Experience in the Mixer
After I wrote this, I had an unexpected experience with this very process. I was presented with a prospect which immediately triggered some disturbing feelings. These feelings were related to past unpleasant experiences and I went into somewhat of a panic about future possibilities. The result was a sleepless night and a lot of tears. I rehashed past hurts and failings and thought about all of the things lacking in my life. It was quite the pity party and got rather out of control. I could not seem to calm myself down.
I did yoga and talked to some sympathetic and supportive family members, yet was still unsettled and upset. I prayed a lot. Finally, I came to a decision which seemed to be a turning point.
I was surprised at how quickly and completely my mood and feelings turned. It was like someone flipped the switch and turned off the mixer. I was at peace with my decision and was able to get on with things I needed to do.
Later I reported back to the person who had proposed this disturbing proposition. When I now had the opportunity to explain the reasons and rational for my feelings, I truly could not recall what I had scribbled on two sheets of paper in my turmoil. I just related the decision and said I felt good about it. And it was accepted without argument.
I was left wondering what all of that angst was for. After some pondering, I concluded that it was not just me stirring myself up. I may have started it but the immediate and complete change convinced me that there was another force doing the agitating and stirring. I had allowed “the evil one [to] have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul.” (2 Nephi 4:27) And through this experience, I am just as sure that there was another, opposite force which stopped the stirring and left me in perfect peace.
The Source of Peace
At Christmas time we remember the birth of the “Prince of Peace”, bringing hope to the world. He who could still the seas with the words “peace, be still” (Mark 4:37-39) can also calm our hearts and still the storms within.
If we come to Him, he can heal our hurts and change our hearts. Faith assures us that through His atonement, all things will eventually be made right. Many of the things we get “stirred up” about will not really matter. “Be still and know that I am God”(Psalms 46:10)
It is fitting that the promised “comforter”, the Holy Ghost, speaks to us with a “still small voice” and speaks peace to our souls. This comforter can calm our hearts and fears. We can have this comforter with us, even when we experience storms of life. Things and others can be stirred up around us, but our hearts can be calm. We can be alone, but not feel alone.
Thus peace on earth must first begin with peace within souls. Harmony between people comes because those people have peace within. They are not stirred up, so don’t stir each other up. My hope for this Christmas season is that we might all seek this Christ, whose birth we celebrate, and find that peace.