Friday, October 23, 2009

Small Contributions to World Peace

People all over the world are praying for world peace. Violence seems like such a huge problem that the thought of working for peace often seems overwhelming. How can we stop armies and terrorists and gang members from wreaking havoc and shattering lives? Most of us don't have the resources to effect the sweeping change that we would like to see in the world. Still, together, we can all make a difference with small contributions to world peace. Each of us has the power to build a more positive atmosphere, even if it is only in our own community at first.

Everything we do to work for peace in any relationship or context is a contribution to world peace because we are interconnected members of the same world. If enough people focused on small actions, together we could make a very big difference. To that end, I've been thinking about the things I can do each day to contribute to peace. The following list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.
  • Think before speaking. This seems obvious, but it's so important. Sometimes people say things that I think are stupid, but in nearly every case it's better for me to keep that thought to myself than to voice it. I don't need to go around contradicting every opinion I disagree with or picking arguments over inconsequential topics. Even if the subject at hand is one I care deeply about, there's no point in offering a counterargument if the other person doesn't seem interested or receptive. I will voice my dissent if someone says something really out of line, but even then I should try to make my comments as polite and concise as possible and avoid being drawn into a pointless argument.
  •  Make criticism constructive. Criticism is an important part of life, but it can also start a lot of conflicts. I believe that the point of criticism should be to help others improve, not to try to make them feel bad for their failures. People do need to understand that some actions are unacceptable because of their negative impact on others, but we can convey that idea without employing harsh and overly judgmental language. When I try to relate to people as individuals who also have valid needs and concerns, I am more likely to be able to offer criticism that they will accept and learn from. 
  • Try not to be easily offended. Some people disagree with me, but that's not really worth getting worked up about. There are plenty of people who think my beliefs and ideals are stupid. I'm sure there are also lots of people who think my haircut looks bad, that I wear terrible clothes, that my house is too small or boring, or that it's embarrassing that my truck still has hail dents on it from three years ago. They may even think my job is lowly or that I'm not much of a success. It's just not worth my time to get into fights over stuff like that. Even when people insult my dearest beliefs, I can't really make an attempt to extend Christ's love if I'm too busy being offended on God's behalf. I think God would rather that I try to reach out to the people who disagree with my Christian values instead of repelling them by taking offense.
  • Help people in need. So many people lash out because they're suffering from some unmet need. If we want to prevent violence and conflict, we need to look around at the needs in our community and around the world and make efforts to meet those needs. Some people are hungry. Some are oppressed. Some don't have enough educational or extracurricular opportunities. Some can't get good jobs. Some don't have decent homes. Some people need affirmation or a chance to express themselves, and some just need a friend. None of us can meet all the needs we see, but we need to be more generous in meeting the needs that we can meet. Even small donations of time and money can make a big difference to people in need, and if we are really invested in peace, we should make these contributions a priority.
This list is far from complete. There are so many things we can do to make our communities and our relationships better and more peaceful. When we work together with others, we multiply the impact of our efforts. With enough people, even regular people like me can make a sizable impact on world peace. I hope that those of you who are reading will make a conscious effort to join me in making small contributions to world peace.

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