Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter
There is a song that has become a "mantra" for me. One that I sing either out loud or internally to myself when I feel stressed, or angry, or upset in one way or another. It is the "Peace Song"...
You may be familiar with it. It is a song that is sung in a lot of the "new thought" churches such as Unity Church. The first line is: Let there be peace on earth, And let it begin with me.
It serves as a good reminder when I find myself in a situation where I would tend to react with anger, or judgment, or criticism. Rather than react negatively, I silently sing to myself, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
We Always Have A Choice: Peace or Anger
There are many occasions in life where our "inner peace" is challenged. Whether it is sitting in a traffic jam while late for work, or having someone cut you off dangerously on the highway, or having someone say something to you that triggers your anger.
All these situations are occasions where we are presented with a choice: peace or anger. Sometimes, we react so quickly that the angry words are out of our mouth before we have a chance to even think... Yet, there is always the next moment. We have a choice about whether to continue the anger, to prolong an argument, or to choose peace.
Choosing Peace Is Not Always Easy
Choosing peace is not always easy. It involves swallowing our pride, putting our ego down a notch or two, and possibly even letting the other person feel like they "won". Yet who truly wins? The person who is eaten up with anger and hatred, or the person who remains at peace internally?
I know for myself, I enjoy life much more when I am at peace. Which is why I made a choice, and I remake it often (especially when I've "stepped off the peace train"). My choice? "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."
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Who Can I Change? Me, Myself, and I
We learn in life, at some point, that we can't change others. Lord knows we have all tried to change our siblings, our parents, our children, our mate, our friends, etc. What we discover, at some point along the way, is that we can't change anyone else. We can only change ourselves, and then hopefully we become a "role model". We teach by our example and sometimes others around us change as if by osmosis.
So if we want to have a more peaceful existence with our family, our neighbors, our world, then we must start with having peace within ourselves. We are number one.
Making Inner Peace a Priority
When we start by making inner peace our priority, we find that we are enmeshed in a lot less situations where anger and resentment are the rule. We choose peace over gossip, anger, frustration, getting even, and holding a grudge.
When we make inner harmony the priority in our life, many things lose importance. We don't get upset about things that are really of no consequence - like the garbage not having been taken out. Or at least if we get upset, we get over it more quickly... as soon as we remember to choose inner peace. It doesn't mean that we don't take steps to attain our desired goal, it simply means that we don't do it with resentment and anger in our hearts.
Who Is Being Hurt by My Anger? Me, Myself, and I
There is no need to hang on to a grudge, since the one that it really is hurting and upsetting is the holder of the grudge energy -- me, myself & I. We come to realize that anger hurts us more than the person it is directed to -- after all, sometimes the person you're angry at has no idea you're angry, and they've gone on and are enjoying their life. Yet, you, the angry person, is the one who is miserable.
The main thing to realize, and remember, is that we always have a choice. To be angry or not to be angry -- or to look at it from the other perspective -- to be at peace or not be at peace. That is truly the question.
We Are Not a Victim of Our Emotions & Reactions
Life becomes so much simpler when we realize that we are not a victim of our emotions and our reactions. While we may get "carried away" by them occasionally, once we "catch on" we can change the direction in which we are headed.
We are not helpless victims. We are powerful beings who can take charge of our lives by paying attention to our thoughts, our words, our actions. Whatever reality we want to create in our lives, we must think it, say it, and then take the appropriate action to make it come true.
Thus, if you set your goal to be inner peace (or inner harmony, or love), then first you must "think it" as often as you can. Repeat to yourself a positive affirmation to reinforce your decision.
Just as we've been brainwashed into negative thought patterns, we need to brain-wash ourselves and do a good housecleaning, and plant the seeds of the reality we want. When we plant those seeds (positive thoughts), we help them grow by affirming them often, both silently and out loud, and even by writing them down repeatedly, or turning them into a little song. The more we change our thinking, the more the consequence of our thinking (our words and our actions) change.
Let There Be Peace On Earth, and Let It Begin With Me
When I find myself feeling anger stirring within, I remind myself (internally): "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Just remembering that choice throws the damper on any fire of anger that was starting to build up.
What we must realize and accept is that anger is a choice -- ours. Which doesn't mean that we're "bad" when we give in to the anger. No. It's not bad -- it's simply a choice were making (perhaps unconsciously) at that instant. Yet, eventually, we will remember our commitment to inner peace, and then we will "change our mind" about choosing anger. And yes, there are situations where anger may be justified, but that doesn't give us permission to rage and dump our anger on others. Anger can be expressed peacefully, without venom.
There may occasionally be times when you choose to vent your anger on others... and then, perhaps mid-stream, you'll remember that your "real choice", your permanent choice is inner peace and you'll change your behavior. However, don't be hard on yourself. Learning to live peace is an ongoing process.
Mastering a New Skill Takes Practice
The main thing to remember is to not place any guilt and blame on yourself for your anger. We are human. We have learned many ways of responding to situations from our parents, siblings, peers, TV, movies, etc. Once these responses become habits, they are harder to abandon. So, it is a question of constantly "remaking the choice" to create a different habit, a healthy one. It's the old story of a child learning to walk. Each time the child falls, it has to decide it wants to keep trying, even though it will fall again and again before it attains its goal.
It's the same with us and any change we want to make in our lives. Like anything new we learn, bicycling, skiing, horseback riding, speaking a new language, we don't get it "right" at the beginning. We learn a technique, we practice, we make mistakes, but eventually, if we don't give up on ourselves, we do attain our goal -- we've "mastered" a new skill. Which doesn't mean we are then perfect at it... There is always more to learn.
The main thing is to never give up on ourselves. We are "under construction" and as such must give ourselves some leeway for not "having it all together".
So, let there be peace on earth, and within each one of us, and let it begin with me (and each one of us)... one breath at a time. one thought at a time, one action (and reaction) at a time.
Finding Inner Courage
by Mark Nepo.
In this book, Mark invites readers to explore their own inner core through the stories of ordinary people, political activists, artists, spiritual teachers from a variety of traditions. These are people who have faced themselves, their warts and weaknesses. They have stood by the courage of their convictions in all kinds of moments, great and small.
Click here for more info or to order this book. Also available as an Audiobook, Audio CD, and Kindle edition.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com