True Humility – A follow-up

After seeing my last post, True Humility, my good friend, Carisse Berryhill, shared the poem below from William Stafford. Such excellent words! Thanks, Carisse!

– William Stafford

Wisdom is having things right in your life
and knowing why.
If you do not have things right in your life
you will be overwhelmed:
you may be heroic, but you will not be wise.
If you have things right in your life
but do not know why,
you are just lucky, and you will not move
in the little ways that encourage good fortune.The saddest are those not right in their lives
who are acting to make things right for others:
they act only from the self–
and that self will never be right:
no luck, no help, no wisdom.

True Humility

I’ve never seen a peacemaker who wasn’t humble.

I have seen those who want to claim the title, but miss the absolute requirement of humility.

Sometimes, false humility will carry them for a while. However, when things get tough and emotions run deep, calmness drains from them and a steely determination takes its place.

It’s no longer about peace. Instead, the goal becomes manipulation and control. Some even call what they do “peacekeeping.” In truth, it is all about the triumph of the “peacekeeper” over those in conflict. The bottom line becomes winning for someone who wasn’t part of the struggle.

Too often, I have walked from a training of potential peacemakers knowing that some will never see nor understand a peace that is generated by the will of the opposing parties.

The true tragedy of never seeing and never understanding is that they miss the glimpse of mutual agreement and spiritual movement that gives rise to true humility.

If it’s about you, it isn’t peace.

Two Sound Bytes

It is my custom to spend some time on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday reading his words and listening to some of his speeches.  So, yesterday I invested in those moments. As I have experienced in the past, I was captivated by the simplicity of his words and the deep impact of their meaning. And, I silently challenged myself to be more aware, more vocal, and more active in opposing discrimination in any form.

I also made my customary walk through social media and, as I expected, saw multiple posts featuring those same words from Dr. King, along with new thoughts posted about the challenges we still face and some of the victories that have been realized.

What I was not expecting was the prevalence of postings about an angry tirade from a professional football player the night before. His words:

I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like [49ers wide receiver Michael] Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me… Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.

– Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

Now, for you hardcore football enthusiasts out there, I understand that professional sports rewards men and women with gigantic egos and a leaning toward, shall we say, showmanship? In truth, Mr. Sherman might be the best corner in the game. I have no way of knowing. I’ve never heard of him.

News sources tell me that Mr. Sherman is a Stanford graduate who majored in communication. He is obviously an intelligent human being. And, yes, his antics are targeted to draw attention to his sport, to the big Super Bowl game, and to himself. Thus, Mr. Sherman has accomplished what he set out to do.

But what Mr. Sherman will never do is establish a legacy that the majority of people will see as valuable — at least, not at this rate. In fact, Mr. Sherman, despite the fact that his remarks will titillate and incite some fans, will never inspire greatness nor add to quality of life for more than one or two people. And one of those folks is obviously Mr. Sherman. Even then, the concept of “quality” is a little cloudy in that context.

Despite the fact that Mr. Sherman’s behavior will probably sell tickets and Super Bowl paraphernalia, nothing that comes from it will be of any true value.

As I read far different words yesterday, I was drawn strongly to this particular quote:

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLKAltruism is simply the unselfish desire to pursue good things for other people. Imagine a life where you spend your waking hours dreaming of ways that the lives of others could be better. Imagine a life where you take your dreams and convert them to vision. Imagine a life where your vision is lifted beyond self and that vision energizes you to make this world a better place.

If that’s the life you imagine, you are among the very best.

Committing to Constant Peace

As I sat with friends last night, the conversation talked to blessings and the gifts we had received from spending time together. A stack of “gift certificates” were circulated and we were instructed to take the one on top and pass it on.

I almost laughed out loud when the certificates reached me. The top document proudly proclaimed that I had received the gift of “Peace.”

How fitting and how eerie! I am a conflict resolution professional and teacher . . . a peacemaker. And here was a proclamation that I had been given the gift of peace. But it wasn’t just me. Others in that room were staring at the “random gift” they had received only to realize that, indeed, that particular gift was one that carried great meaning and, for some of us, a little irony. (For example, a minister just a few feet away revealed that she had received the gift of “Faith.”)

We were asked to share some thought about the gifts. As I thought about that gift, I thought about the many things I tell others about peace:

  • “Peace isn’t the absence of conflict.”
  • “If we can make peace, we will be called the children of God.”
  • “Peace can be kept. Peace can be made. Lasting peace must be built within each individual.”

None of those statements could be more true. But as I heard my friends talk of other gifts .  .  . acceptance, balance, compassion, openness, joy, serenity, forgiveness . . . my thoughts about peace were realigned and refocused.

I know and I teach all of the skills of being a peaceful person. Peace is about finding mutual gain for every single person. Peace is not an international sea of calm. Peace is not a lack of ripples on the water.

Peace is an individual commitment to bringing a balance of justice and mercy to the world.

While there are many textures to that statement, the key phrase is “individual commitment.” You see, we all know, at some level, what is right and what we should do in every given situation. But doing that is difficult. It takes great energy. Doing right requires tremendous focus. And it seems that opportunities for finding peace seem to multiply as we pursue that special place.

Bringing peace demands commitment.

Because peace can exist in the midst of conflict, peace is always available.

  • Peace exists in the heart of every man, woman and child.
  • Peace can become a natural state of living if we allow it to shape our daily decisions.
  • Peace breaks the cycle of conflict and war.
  • However, because peace lives in each of us, conflict and war cannot eradicate peace.

Being a person of peace requires commitment. Being peaceful requires thoughtful response.

Curious look

hapal via Compfight

Building peace in ourselves and those around us demands that we persevere .  .  . that we act consistently and constantly offer peace to those around us.

And the gift that we receive from all of that effort?



In previous posts, Your First Choice and Practice Split-Second Hesitation, we discussed the possibilities of developing a “non-anxious presence” in dealing with conflicts and opportunities that present themselves each day. The executive summary of those two posts was this:

Our natural answer to challenging, anxiety-provoking situations is to react. Reacting without thought is instinctual and critical to our survival when we face imminent danger. Yet, most of us rarely face imminent danger. We face conflict and inconvenience. Rather than react, we can train ourselves to thoughtfully respond. By doing so, we nurture the “non-anxious presence” within. The key to development of this great gift is to introduce just a little bit of time into our interactions. The first step is training ourselves to wait.

But how do we do that?

No doubt, the ability to pause and think before we speak or act is an extraordinarily difficult task. We have to discipline ourselves to want something different from our relationships with others. We need to pursue a life where regrets are few. We have to train ourselves to wait.

Waiting is a mental process. Choosing to think multiplies our choices. Many choices bloom into an abundance of opportunities.

As we discussed in the first post, your brain is an efficient organ. The amygdala are constantly scanning input from all of your senses, looking specifically for danger but also triggering automated reactions to most of life’s events. The entry point to the “non-anxious presence” is to teach the amygdala to redirect some decisions to the area of conscious thought, the pre-frontal cortex.

That’s why waiting is a mental process. And as a process, we have to pre-load our brains with thoughts that help us recognizing the incoming messages, separate the truly dangerous pieces from those that appear to share some of the characteristics of those things that threaten imminent harm, and assist in putting that important “first choice” into motion.

The following are five exercises, presented as questions, to assist you in your “wait-training.”

  1. What am I expecting?
    Only on rare occasions are any of us truly ambushed. As you look at your calendar of appointments or glance through your to-do list, learn to anticipate the encounters you will have through your day. Prepare yourself for difficult conversations by generating empathy for others and by committing to discovering their intended meanings before you respond.
  2. What did I just hear or see?
    When conflict or difficulties surface, ask yourself to consider what you are truly observing. Remember, your brain will lean to seeing and hearing dangers and threats. And the result of that tends to mask the intentions and meanings of the other person. Think carefully through what you have observed.
  3. How do I feel about what I have observed?
    The person with the non-anxious presence is not immune from anxiety. Recognize your feelings and inwardly acknowledge your anxiety. Remember that anxiety is the fear of things that have not yet happened. Because of our remarkable imaginations, most anxiety is the fear of things that will never happen. Having acknowledged your personal feelings, embrace your super-hero. Unless physical violence is imminent, this pregnant moment is more likely life-giving than death-producing. Teach yourself not to disregard your feelings, but to put them on hold. After experiencing that moment a few times, you will easily learn the superiority of delayed gratification in peacemaking.
  4. What “first words” are most likely to nurture true conversation?
    Even when you perceive an attack, your well-chosen words can stabilize the environment and, hopefully, present an opportunity for others to “wait” for a response. Thoughtless reactions fuel conflict escalation. Your initial response could well decide whether the situation grows more tense and explosive or eases into a time of thoughtfulness and positive interaction. In preparation, you might want to practice some of the classic “first words.” For example, “I can see you are upset (or frustrated or feel strongly) about this. I want to make certain that I understand your thoughts and feelings. Tell me more about . . .”
  5. Can we come to an understanding now or can we agree on a time and place that will provide us with sufficient space?
    The non-anxious presence requires patience. Not every difficulty can be dealt with as it breaks the surface. The beauty of introducing space, that little bit of time, is that it introduces the hope that those in conflict do have time to consider solutions for mutual benefit. Thus, space engenders breathing room. Agreeing to place problems on hold until a definite time in the future opens the possibility of deeper thinking and more creative solutions.
tree of light

esther** via compfight


In all things, be safe. Remember, however, that the non-anxious person — the person trained to wait — increasingly produces safety and peace for all of those around them.



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