This topic conjures up images of beauty pageant contestants with Vaseline on their teeth a la Miss Congeniality. But I think it's something worth talking about, especially on Memorial Day weekend. I think when most people imagine a solution to war, they think the answer is something big like massive demilitarization or huge programs donating massive amounts of money to fight hunger and poverty. But I think the answer is much simpler and smaller and more powerful than that. It's so small and simple that it probably sounds trite and cliched.
I think the only way to achieve world peace is for us to have peace in our hearts.
To me, having peace in our hearts means that we do things to create a better, safer existence for others. Sometimes that means not fighting. When we forgive someone who has wronged us and move on with our lives, we have peace in our hearts. When we choose to work things out with our spouse instead of fighting each other, we have peace in our hearts.
Sometimes it does mean taking up arms. There is a remarkable story in the Latter Day Saint Book of Mormon about a people who were very war like and thirsted for bloodshed. They eventually became Christians and realized how sacred life is and how evil it is to thirst for the blood of another. They made a covenant with God and promised that they would never go to war again, not even to defend their own lives because they were afraid that for them, this might lead them into sin again. But several years later, another tribe came to war against them and began slaughtering their people in the streets. They knew they needed to defend themselves, but feared that doing so would endanger their souls. However, they had many sons who were in their teens to twenties who had not entered the covenant since they were only children at the time. These young men went to war so that they could protect their people and give them a safe life. They had peace in their hearts, even in the midst of war. This reminds me of something I once heard in a documentary about the Marine Corps. A retired Marine officer said that probably more so than anybody, Marines hate war and that until you have been to war and seen and experienced it, you can't understand how terrible it is. But as terrible as going to war is, he said that he and his brothers at arms were willing to do it because there are people who threaten the safety of America and her people.
And that's the amazing thing. We don't have to wait for external conditions to change for peace to exist. I think some of the greatest peace the world has ever known has been during times of conflict. Just look at people like Corrie Ten Boom, Viktor Frankl, John Rabe, and Oskar Schindler. Someone like Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg had to have peace in his heart to endanger himself with a plot to assassinate Hitler and try to end a war that he saw as a waste of human life. Members of the Resistance in Europe had peace in their hearts as they took immense personal risks to fight oppression. Ironically enough, sometimes people who say they want peace more than anything have war in their hearts, like those who persecuted soldiers returning from the Vietnam War, or extremists who bomb abortion clinics. In fact, if we wait for the world to change before we feel peace, we will be waiting a very long time. Having peace in our hearts leads us to be the change we want to see.
The other amazing thing about having peace in our hearts is that it can spread if we let it. When we raise our children with love and acceptance and love and serve one another, we are contributing to world peace. I can't think of any cruel dictator or serial killer who says he had a happy and secure childhood. Saddam Hussein's mother tried to abort him and let him know every day that he was not wanted. Hitler hated his alcoholic father who terrorized his family. So the flip side of this is who knows how much suffering has been averted by people showing genuine love and kindness to another? That is the way to achieve world peace. Maybe the best way we can celebrate Memorial Day and honor our soldiers is to find ways to create more peace in the world.