June 25, 2010: Sustaining peace in our lives and in our world, by Sister Carolyn Teter

If we are to have peace both as individuals and in our community, we must understand the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness.

These are the factors that sustain peace in our lives and in the world because they enable justice to prevail.

Reconciliation can happen only when the parties involved honor the dignity of one another and then truly talk about the issues and come to some agreement regarding possible resolution of the issues.

As Pope Paul VI explained it, “Before speaking, it is necessary to listen, not only to a person’s voce, but to their heart.  A person must first be understood; and, where they merit it, agreed with.”

These are wise words — and it is a wisdom that is also found in an ancient Persian mystic, Hafiz:  “Beyond the perfectly good and the totally wrong, there is a big field.  I will meet you there.”

Friendship and service are the hallmarks of true dialogue. This largeness of spirit seems to be lacking in our world today and thus we have violence in speech and behavior.

Forgiveness is a second crucial factor in sustaining peace in ourselves, our community and in the world. Where would we be without forgiveness?

Both and the other person(s) would perpetuate the hurt we experienced and then be predisposed to hostility and domination. That kind of resentment, with its corresponding anger, saps our energy and causes stress.  The stress in turn wears down our immunity system and as a result many debilitating physical and psychological illnesses can occur. We find ourselves stuck in the past and thus not able to live in the present with all of its joys and the possibility of new and nurturing relationships. And lastly, we may resort to vengeance so we can see the other suffer and be humiliated.  Then the cycle of violence continues and peace is not possible.

Forgiveness is not something that happens overnight.  It is a process and can take weeks, months, even years.  I believe that prayer, which manifests how God has forgiven us, enables us to forgive others.

When we do forgive, the cycle of violence is broken and we contribute to the establishment of a culture of peace in our hearts, homes and society.

— Sister Carolyn Teter has been a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia for 55 years. She is on the staff at Manna House of Prayer and is involved in offering workshops and spiritual direction.  She is a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.

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