Friday, June 10, 2005


As I begin to study the lives of important peacemakers, I have noticed that there seems to be a stage when their lives suddenly take a quantum leap in complexity. They begin their peacemaking modestly, but their first major success is quickly followed by a flood of new requests and responsibilities. At this point, the peacemaker takes pause and goes on a brief, but intense, spiritual journey, carefully considering whether he or she is up for the task of following through for the long term.

There are probably many more stories of this than we actually see, because a good number of people who experience this may in fact decide, "no." There are good reasons to say "no." Saying "yes" is full of risks. It can be easy to glorify the "yes" choices, because the "yes" choices that are most visible are the ones that were in fact successful. But the success in these successful stories did not come easily. Success is not inevitable. To say "no" from the start is to exit quietly, gracefully. It can be rooted in an honest and admirable humility. A person can say, "circumstance has brought me to this moment of choice, but not true calling. This is not mine," and gracefully step aside, allowing others to pick up the challenge -- others who may in fact be genuinely called; others who may in fact have a better chance at success.

But what of those who do in fact say "yes"? They next have to revamp their lives. They have to consolidate their support, re-organize their work in fundamental ways, and face their lives anew. Especially, they need to learn how to share the load with others -- or, to put it in contemporary language, they have to learn how to delegate. A leader of a peacemaking effort isn't doing all the work himself or herself. These leaders have teams of trusted colleagues, and they meet frequently to plan, carefully and strategically. They have good communication systems in place so that they can call meetings at a moment's notice when emergency situations demand it. They are committed. They are disciplined. They are on top of things at all times.

As people call on me more and more often in life now, I find myself thinking a lot about all of this. It is not that I am being called to dramatically important peacemaking work (yet). It is not that I am at this major kind of crossroads that I describe. It is that I am such a sensitive soul that I feel very keenly this modest crossroads-experience that I find myself in.

Realistically, am I up for the task? And, a related but very different question: is the present state of my life up for the task? By this I mean that both matter: my own actual psychological state (how much strength, compassion, and insight I currently have), and what I could call the infrastructure of my life (i.e., the nature and array of my current commitments, and the quality and supportive strength of my relationships).

Some pieces of those questions I can answer. My work life is ideally suited for the kinds of requests I am considering. I am very fortunate in this respect. All of the requests harmonize well with my work-related commitments -- but still there are questions of prioritization and timing. I cannot do all that I currently have before me as possibilities, and handle them all well. Some I will have to put off. The question is how to focus my energies now? What are the immeditate steps that it would be best for me to make now? How do I most effectively sequence my major interests?

Also, I notice a sense of growing strength, but am I far enough along in that yet? I see myself attracted to kinds of activism that others veer away from, and that means something -- but I also see in myself a tendency to take on too much and then, back in the privacy of my own home at night, I panic and crash emotionally. So far I have managed to pick myself back up and piece myself back together again before each next foray -- yet it doesn't feel like a sustainable pattern (nor is it much fun!) -- are there better ways to bolster myself, emotionally, for the demands of this kind of work?

Discernment, discernment, discernment!

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