The core concept of this chapter comes from A Course in Miracles, which is a spiritual program that has as its primary focus a more peaceful life. According to the “course,” there are two voices in our minds. One belongs to the ego, the other to the Holy Spirit (you may call this peaceful inner messenger your Higher Power or Great Spirit or Universal Source or whatever name you choose).
Both voices are always available to us, but one is very loud and generally gets our attention. I am guessing you can figure out which one that is. The course tells us that the ego’s voice is not only the loudest, its message is always wrong. So why do we listen so intently to it?
It is a mystery, really. The ego is not our friend. It will mimic a friend, but a friend it is not. It will attempt to make us feel special by setting us apart from others. It will speak to us of our superiority one moment and our inferiority the next, as a way of keeping us off balance and confused. Its very survival relies on our listening to it and only it; therefore, it will go to any length to maintain its hold on us. It always persuades us to give up our good judgment and wisdom and to face life from a position of anger or fear or aggressive behavior or isolation.
The other, softer voice speaks to us of love and peace, surrender and forgiveness, hope and acceptance. It never draws a distinction between us and others. It always emphasizes our sacred necessity to one another. It will coach us into having successful and loving relationships. It will constantly remind us that we are always where we need to be and that the hand of God is always present.
Fortunately we all have free will, and free will allows us to choose the voice we want to listen to. We can always choose to listen to the soft, gentle voice of peace. We can choose to change our minds, and our lives will follow.
Be Vigilant About Your Choices
If what you are seeking is peace, you must be vigilant about the choices you make. The ego will often beckon you to choose gossip, criticism, comparisons, judgments, jealousy, fear, and anger—none of these choices will lead you to peace.
Making such ego-driven choices can become habitual, but no habit is sacrosanct. If you really want peace in your life, before doing anything, you must carefully evaluate the action, with the help of your Higher Power. Before speaking, taking any action, even before planning a future activity, it’s wise to stop and examine what you are about to do. If the choice you are considering is not conducive to a peaceful experience, it’s best to choose again.
Discovering the avenue to peace isn’t really very difficult if your search is serious. It’s a one-way street, in fact. Peace is the by-product of loving thoughts and kind actions. The people who are on the receiving end of our loving actions and kind thoughts will experience a wave of the peace we are feeling too.
Let’s examine this idea more closely. A loving thought might be a prayer for understanding or for forgiveness. It might be a prayer for the well-being of an adversary or for one who is ill. It might be a nonspecific prayer on behalf of the troubled world.
A loving thought might simply be recognizing the “holiness” of every encounter. Being willing to shift one’s perspective whenever a conflict has arisen is a loving thought. It’s a shift that doesn’t even have to be verbalized to the parties present to it. Doing it will register on the situation anyway, and it will be felt. Acknowledging one’s gratitude for the present moment and all past moments, too, is an expression of a loving thought.
What Is A Loving, Kind Action?
Loving, kind actions are not mysterious. Perhaps the one that is easiest and comes first to mind is smiling rather than frowning whenever an opportunity to do one or the other presents itself. Surrendering to a situation that you cannot control or to a person who is adamant that his or her opinion is right is a kind action. Don’t misunderstand. Surrendering doesn’t mean letting someone walk all over you; it only means that you would rather be peaceful than caught in the maze of “rightness.” Being right is always a matter of perspective. Fighting to win a point will never cultivate a feeling of peace.
Actually walking away from an encounter that is ugly is making the kinder choice. It defuses the situation, and it demonstrates that there is another way to interact. Let me go a few steps further. We do not need to argue, ever. We do not need to defend our perspective, ever. We do not need to force our opinion on others, ever. Disagreements don’t require resolution, but keeping disagreements alive will never make room for the peace we so deserve.
Changing your mind from agitated to peaceful requires little effort, really. You can begin by taking a deep breath before responding to any situation. Then just invite God into the moment. Every time you avail yourself of this simple two-step approach, you create more peace, not only in your own life but in the lives of everyone else, too. Each one of us can have an impact; the world changes as our minds change. One decision, one choice at a time.
Be Willing To Ask Yourself, “Would I Rather Be Peaceful Or Right?”
The number of times per day that you have the opportunity to choose between being peaceful or “right” probably falls into the hundreds. On many of these occasions, it is not an easy choice. You may feel personally committed to one side of an issue or the other, and bowing out of the discussion or walking away feels like abandoning your position.
You can choose to shift your perspective, however, and see that when you walk away you are, in actuality, making a choice that benefits everyone in the discussion. By choosing not to rail until the bitter end, you can allow both sides to walk away with their dignity intact.
One’s ego is frequently so intent on pushing its point that we end up in discussions we don’t even need to be having, many of them heated, and over issues we don’t really care about. Apparently we have been trained to think that we have to finish whatever deliberation we are a part of, but that is not the case. Not continuing a discussion to its bitter end is such a freeing decision.
Our “adversaries” might try to guilt us into continuing the discussion, particularly if they think they are close to convincing us that they are right, but they have no control over our decision to leave the discussion. The choice is ours and we’ll never find peace if we stay in discussions that are heated and that have no chance for a happy resolution.
The Desire for Peaceful Relationships
The desire for peaceful relationships seems to gain in importance the older we get. I certainly have a past replete with heated arguments over issues I often knew nothing about. But I was intent on being right, on forcing others to give in, hopefully forcing them to finally agree that my position was the right one. I think my insecurities fed my compulsion to be right.
I have no interest in doing this anymore. Not because I don’t have opinions on issues nor because I don’t feel committed to a personal philosophy. It’s because my peace of mind has become more important to me than winning an argument—any argument—and experiencing the agitation that comes with disagreements no longer fuels my body with the energy I need for further engagement.
As always, there is a much larger issue at stake here than just the individual choice of peace over being right. Every time we make a peaceful choice we add to the peace of the world. This may not seem possible, but think about it. When you feel respected, don’t you tend to radiate that good feeling to others as well? And when you are confronted by hostility, doesn’t that tend to stress you and color your next interactions?
Each response any one of us makes multiplies exponentially. When we choose a peaceful response, the effect of our choice radiates outward into the world.
Not getting entangled in other people’s dramas or trying to ensnare people in ours, particularly if that’s been our longtime pattern, is just wonderfully freeing. This one step, choosing to be peaceful rather than right, takes lots of practice, but it pays huge dividends toward a peaceful life and a peaceful world.
©2016 by Karen Casey. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
About the Author
Karen Casey is a popular speaker at recovery and spirituality conferences throughout the country. She conducts Change Your Mind workshops nationally, based on her bestselling Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow (reprinted in 2016). She is the author of 19 books, including Each Day a New Beginning which has sold more than 2 million copies. Visit her at http://www.womens-spirituality.com.