The Nature of Peace – 6 – Breaking and suffering

February 17, 2015

This is the sixth and final excerpt from an address I gave in Hamilton, Canada in November 2014 on the Nature of Peace. Excerpt #1 is here and #2 is here and #3 is here and #4 is here and #5 is here.


This is what the nature of peace is like. It’s a long, hard journey. Peace is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. You need to have a thick skin. You might get roughed up. You might get beat up. You might even get killed. But then, we all have to die sometime. Sorry to break that news to you.

And when you get roughed up, what do you do? Well, you deal with it. You keep going. You keep walking. And somehow you live deeper. You find yourself more alive. You find joy on your journey.

The next photo is also from Yemen, and it was actually a gift to me from Jean early in our relationship. You can see it’s a rather striking and beautiful photo of a Yemeni shepherd girl. But imagine a lion coming into this picture. What will happen? Well, that lion will rip apart that lamb and that girl.

One day the lion will down with the lamb. I believe that with all my heart. I would not be standing here if I didn’t believe that. But that’s not the world we live in. We’re not in utopia yet. We’re not in eternity. We’re living in that in-between place, and that means a world of pain and loss.

We all have stories of this. There are 500 stories here. And you all know your own story. But even in loss, you can find peace. And this leads me to my last photo.

It’s from Congo, and you can see it’s of a surgery. It’s actually of Dr. Philip Wood, a Hamilton doctor. And to me, this surgery shows that at its deepest level, peace involves a breaking open, a cutting open. That’s how peace is cultivated. It’s like a garden.

There are two things that are true about gardening. One is that hard work pays off. The other is you get what you plant. Sorry if this is stating the obvious, but if my son Jon and I plant a bean in our garden in Uganda we’re going to get a bean, not a tomato or carrot or whatever.

But here’s the thing. Before the bean grows, first it has to break open. It has to lose itself. It has to die. Nobody really has any idea how this works. It’s a mystery.

But just because we don’t understand this, it doesn’t make it any less true. It’s a universal law.

And it seems to me that this is how peace works. Peace comes from people who are willing to be broken open. These are the people who change the world. You want to know the best definition I’ve heard of a peacemaker? A peacemaker is someone who’s willing to take on more suffering than they dish out to others. And there’s a reward in that. You get a richer, more enjoyable life.

It’s like Churchill said. “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”

It’s tempting to think that peace can come in other ways, that peace comes through, for example, tolerance. Tolerance is seen as our highest good. But let me ask you something. Do we say? …. “If I could just tolerate my spouse.” Or, “If I could just tolerate my children.” Or, “If could just tolerate my community.”

Well, hurray for tolerance. No tolerance is not the highest good. Love is.


Congratulations again for this event, this unique and blessed event. And I believe Hamilton is a blessed community. You may think I’m saying this just to sound nice, but I believe it’s true. Because this community has suffered some losses, some of which have attracted attention from far away.

Most recently you’ve had the death of Nathan Cirillo, who was killed because he stood in a place that was a symbol of peace. That’s the only reason he was killed, because he stood as a symbol of the values that Canadians hold dear. And, to me, Nathan’s death shows the paradox of peace, that sometimes the greater the loss, the greater the peace.

Just like with that garden, we don’t understand how that works. But we can still see it and observe it and feel it. It’s not like the purpose of losing a life is to remember it, but remembering that life is an outcome of losing it. And even in the pain there’s this strange beauty where people are drawn together and unexpected things grow.


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February 17, 2015 • Posted in
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