The Courtesy of Peace

Recently I joined a friend for lunch in a small restaurant with tables fairly close together. The pleasant ambience was interrupted when a car began to back out into traffic from a space in front of the restaurant. The driver of another car laid on his horn, gesticulated angrily and drove the next 20 feet only to stop at a red light. Everyone in the restaurant turned to each other, wondering aloud, “what just happened?” “Why did the other driver need to be so rude?”? Heads were shaken, smiles were exchanged. But then the original car started backing up again, and proceeded into the opposite lane. 

While the outside exchanges were angry and discourteous, we were just all bemused. Like me, others in the restaurant wondered why one driver was so impatient that it caused him to blare the horn and yell only to have to wait at a red light?  Why did the other block traffic to turn around when he could have easily gone around the block?  Luckily, no one was hurt. I was interested to have our tables react in communal curiosity rather than angry denouncement. It felt a bit… civilized. In a culture that is now quick to judge and hurl insults, the polite responses of the restaurant patrons encouraged me about our ability to coexist peacefully.

Apparently, there is a new trend with some young parents refusing to teach their children to say please and thank you. Yet it is those very courtesies which will make life easier, not harder for their offspring. When people engage with us in pleasant ways, we are more likely to respond in kind.  Have you ever braced yourself for confrontation or conflict only to be caught off guard when people treat you with courtesy and politeness?  In those moments, we are disarmed, which literally means putting down our weapons, and we are more apt to interact respectfully. Putting down our weapons, whether they be verbal or physical, is what Peacemaking is all about.

Perhaps you were raised with the instruction to ‘mind your manners.’  Being careful about what we say and how we say it is essential to building positive relationships with others. These courteous interactions are invitations to engage in Peacemaking. They allow us to establish connections before identifying our differences. Engaging one another with careful consideration of the words and tone of voice we use presents an opportunity to learn more about one another…our beliefs, our feelings, and our experiences of the world. Why would we focus on the fear of offending each other, when we can offer one another opportunities for Peacemaking?

Humans are social animals. We’re meant to accompany one another in both the mundane and memorable moments — and to find Delight in those exchanges. Civil discourse paves the path of possibilities for Peace. 

There’s a traditional song called “Come and Go With Me to that Land.”  In that land, there is Justice, Freedom, Singing. The Journey to that Land starts with a courteous invitation that leads us toward Peace. Let’s stop the bickering. Come and go with me to that Land of Peace, please — and thank you for joining me.

Salaam, Shalom, Peace, Blessed Be.