Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

If you were a baby boomer and a singer like me, this song is familiar. It was sung endless times and for many occasions from childhood until late into adult years. Today we might find its melody sappy and its lyrics pithy but the plea still rings true. Let there be peace and let it begin with me.

Maybe that’s the mistake we’re making in this historically divisive time. We’re expecting someone else to do the peacemaking: our political leaders, clergy, activists, et al.  Everyone but me. We certainly do our share of posting, venting, even boycotting or supporting various causes. Sometimes we may even leave our comfort zones and join a protest march or attend a rally. Hey, at least I’m doing something.  I am not denying those efforts. Encourage the good and forbid the bad.  Qur’an 3:10   There are 3 possible steps when we see something wrong. We can, first, try to right it by our hands, secondly, speak up and thirdly, recognize that it’s wrong. But merely recognizing something as inherently bad or wrong is the least effective step we can take.

Any significant change has to start with the individual. Most of us will not enter the annals of history as game-changers but we cannot deny the effects of our own actions on those around us.  Change takes a great deal of self-reflection. It’s not measured by the number of likes and followers on social media, ephemeral at best, and the result of passing fads and fancies.  Real change, peace, comes from within each one of us. A commitment to go against the popular trends and tides. And no, bucking the status quo is not easy. Especially not in our world today.

Attaining peace means shutting out the world once in a while. Turning off and tuning out. No screens, no news, no social media. No constant bombardment of popular opinion – which is merely that – popular and opinion. We need a much needed break from comedy and comedians for which no topic, no person is immune or safe from those albeit humorous but deadly jabs. When we lose all respect for others and institutions we ultimately lose it for ourselves.

The popular usage of foul and vulgar language that now colors our daily speech patterns, airways and written words is a serious comment on how we value ourselves and others.  On a recent NPR interview a woman opined “Perhaps we like to hate?”  We enjoy the adrenaline rush that anger gives us coursing through our veins. But surely that’s not who we are nor who we are meant to be.  All these factors tend to bring out the negative and judgmental in us. To be enticed by the dark forces that do lurk within us and without.

With the New Year just around the corner – and may it be significantly better than 2020 – let’s consider making a resolution to look deep into our inner selves, and quietly, attentively listen to our inner voice. We were not created to hate, to destroy, to mock to deride although those impulses lie within us. With a little soul-searching I am sure we will all come to realize that this is not who we want to be – nor does it lead to safety, prosperity, and peace.

Take more walks in nature – minus the air buds. Give yourself a break from the hate rhetoric, the bullying disguised innocently as comedy and world opinion. Walk outside, reflect, breathe deep, and marvel at God’s creation and perfection. Surely we are meant for more than this.  Indeed, We created the human as the best of all creation, but then he can fall to the lowest of the low. 95:4-5