Peacekeeping vs. peacemaking

Photo by Ambitious Creative Co. — Rick Barrett

I’m a 9 on the Enneagram (ugh, the Enneagram is so brilliant but oh so direct about our faults). Labeled ‘the peacemaker’, we 9’s obsess about maintaining a level of peace and harmony in our environment. Sometimes, we do this to a fault.

All I’m saying is that I can speak from experience when it comes to people-pleasing…

This short entry isn’t just for us 9’s. I think there’s a place in all of us that would rather have peace than discord. I don’t know anyone who (in a healthy mindset) is okay living amidst upheaval and distress.

The thing is,

It requires far less emotional fortitude to keep the peace rather than make the peace.

There’s a thin line between peacekeeping and peacemaking.

Peacekeeping feels like selling out. We discard our values and silence ourselves just so things don’t get hairy. We sacrifice it all to save from stepping on anyone’s ego and we’re okay with the world running roughshod over us just as long as it results in a sense of harmony.

But you know how this story ends…

This harmony is a false one. It hurts on the inside because you’ve set a precedent that your truth doesn’t matter. Peacekeeping is unsustainable. Though it may smooth the situation over, no hearts are changed. Though it’s ‘easier’ in the short-term, there’s always a small-but-loud part of you on the inside that kicks and screams for you to let it out.

Peacemaking, on the other hand, is different…

Peacemaking is hard. It requires empathy and patience and vulnerability. The peacemaker has to be okay with making an enemy or four because she sees the higher ground before a lot of other people do. And sometimes, in order to get there, a lot of people have to swallow very bitter pills.

Peacemaking changes hearts — not just minds, and hearts are not so easily changed.

Peacemaking is an art of standing strong to one’s values as well as keeping the greater good in focus.

Now, the danger of peacemaking is that we can easily go into tyrant mode (when a certain country violently forces their way of doing things on an unsuspecting part of the world, etc.). But if you find yourself in peacekeeping — erm, people-pleasing — mode far too often, know that there is a slightly different tack you can take that aims for peace without having to sacrifice your values.

It’s hard and people might not like you in the short term. But sometimes, this is all a necessary part of the path. Because you hold something in your heart that others might not be able to see until you help them get there.