Peace Within

No person can truly be at peace with himself if he does not live up to his moral capacity.

—Norman Cousins1

Dan was articulate, well groomed, handsome, and successful. He had an aura of earnest resolve and calm purpose. From outward appearances, he could have been a mental health professional or perhaps a clergyman. He wasn't. Dan was attending a court-ordered anger management class. Months before he had choked his beloved wife, from whom he was now separated. What circumstances had led to this outcome? For various reasons, Dan had begun using drugs. At one point his wife called the police because his anger was out of control. Dan said, "I'd resented her for humiliating me. This resentment brewed for a year. Finally, my anger erupted over a rather trivial disagreement. This is when I tried to choke her." This eruption and their subsequent separation became a wake-up call for Dan. He related, "In the many moments that I had to be alone and reflect, I came to realize that the situation was my own fault. My wife had become distant because I was getting out of control and dangerous while I was doing drugs. I forgave her—it wasn't really her fault. I resolved to get off drugs and become the person I know

I can be. I got help—private counseling from both a mental health professional and a pastoral counselor. I now worship regularly and found that has helped immensely. I got off drugs completely and stopped the other behaviors I'd been doing that were making me miserable—including the pornography and the affairs. I'm committed to spiritual growth and kindness. I am not pressing her to take me back, although that's what I desire. I am just showing her that I am genuinely changing. No excuses. I just try each day to be a better, more loving me. I hope she'll want to be with me again. It seems to be working . . . but if she doesn't, I'll still strive to be my best self—for my own inner happiness and peace of mind."

We human beings all sometimes do things that disappoint ourselves. We ask, what kind of a person would do such a thing? The answer is, "Not a very good one." An inner pain is created when we dislike what we are doing and what we are becoming, and this pain can be expressed as anger toward others. It is difficult to love someone who has hurt you—especially when that person is you. However, if we look honestly at ourselves, with great compassion, and find the love and resolve to replace unkind behaviors with constructive ones, inner peace can be restored. Anger can hide the pain, while keeping the inner pain as it is. An honest, loving look is required to identify the real source of the pain. These ideas are found in diverse cultures throughout history. For example, the Dalai Lama taught: "To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else."2 Jesus taught: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matt. 7:3) We are far less likely to condemn others for their weaknesses once we have taken responsibility to acknowledge and correct our own. Perhaps we gain compassion as we realize how difficult self-mastery is.

Can each person achieve inner peace? Mother Teresa was once asked by a reporter what it was like to be a living saint. She replied, "You have to be holy in your position as you are, and I have to be holy in the position that God has put me. So it is nothing extraordinary to be holy. Holiness is not the luxury of the few. Holiness is a simple duty for you and for me. We have been created for that."3 Thus, one can be holy as a teacher, parent, politician, or trash col lector. Holy is an interesting word. It derives from the same root as health and whole, and means integrity—no discrepancy between one's behavior and one's values. When our behaviors accord with our best ideals, then we feel greater peace and happiness. In fact, the Greek word for happiness, eudaimonia, literally means "good soul." So the antidote to this kind of spiritual pain is to first change ourselves, gaining greater inner peace so that the pain doesn't erupt as anger. Inner happiness and peace derive in large part from living up to our moral potential. As we do, we begin to develop an intact sense of self, an inner confidence and security. Rogers writes: "It's not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It's the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff. That's what makes growing humanity the most potentially glorious enterprise on earth."4

While holy living is essential to inner peace and mental health, this does not imply that one must be perfectly holy to feel at peace. It does imply that we are on course and trying our best, since that is all anyone can do. Since no one is perfect, we can hope for a "clear but forgiving interior voice to guide" us.5

Living Life

Living Life

Want to be and stay positive? Download This Guide And Discover 50 Tips To Have A Positive Outlook In Life. Finally! Reach your goals, face your fears and have a more fulfilled and happy life.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment