Peacekeeping Vs. Peacemaking

I grew up in a home where the goal was to “keep the peace.” My parents often argued and as the oldest I would gather my brothers and sister and we would hide in the closet. As I grew up, I learned the ground rules for peacekeeping:

-Peacekeepers walk on eggshells to not upset anyone
-Peacekeepers don’t share how they really feel so they don’t start an argument
-Peacekeepers avoid conflict and apologize for things that they haven’t even done
-Peacekeepers always feel taken advantage of and find their identity in not making waves

The Bible says nothing about being a peacekeeper. Scripture calls us to be peacemakers.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

We’ve confused peacemaking with peacekeeping. What we typically think is that peacemakers need to take one for the team. If we’ve been hurt then pursuing peace is keeping quiet or not speaking truth or only sharing part of the truth. We equate being passive with peacemaking. We withhold truth and we skirt the truth and we don’t speak how we are really feeling, thinking that we are doing what is best for the relationship.

The by-product of living like this is resentment and distance and passive-aggressiveness and hurt and surface level relationships. We have no peace. We think we are helping the relationship, but we are actually fracturing it even more.

Maybe you’ve been hurt; you’ve been let down; you’ve been disappointed…and you haven’t said anything in an effort to “Keep the peace”…but the truth is you don’t have peace at all.

Peacemakers are different. Maybe the key to peace for you is to stop keeping peace and start making peace.

– Peacemakers are ruthlessly committed to truth-telling.

Peacemakers speak the truth in love. When they are offended or hurt, they communicate their feelings honestly. When they have hurt others, they own their mistake and ask for forgiveness. They know that withholding truth will never lead to intimacy.

-Peacemakers are humble enough to pray for the person that hurt them.

An amazing thing happens when I pray for someone that has wounded me…God changes my heart. There are times that God changes them, but God always changes me when I humble myself to pray for that person. When I bow my knees and bring that relationship before God, I am saying to Him, “This person is more valuable to me than being right.” God shows up in a heart that is humble enough to elevate someone else above ourselves.

-Peacemakers pursue reconciliation at the risk of their own comfort.

Avoidance isn’t peacemaking. Avoiding conflict will never build intimacy. You will never grow closer to your sister by ignoring her. You will never reconcile with your dad by not going home for Christmas. You will never grow closer in your marriage by pretending there is no conflict. Sometimes the best way you can build peace is to embrace confrontation.

How about you today? Are you a peacekeeper or a peacemaker?

8 Responses to Peacekeeping Vs. Peacemaking

  1. Ouch! This totally hit home. I’m in the midst of a divorce and if any good thing has come out of this situation it’s that I’m going through a lot of my emotional baggage and doing some serious healing work. As I read this, I totally identified with the peacemaker. I guess I’ve been one all my life. But when I married someone in recovery, who subsequently relapsed multiple times and was also unfaithful… my co-dependency kicked in high gear and I didn’t even realize it until my world crash around me and I felt totally out of control. I’m learning now how to be a peacemaker. I’m learning it’s okay to have boundaries. It’s okay to speak the truth in love. I need to stop “beating around the bush” – it’s not a polite nicety… it’s really a manipulation tactic… and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. But now that I do, I’m taking responsibility for myself, my actions, my words – for me. Speaking the truth is easy, but the love part is hard. God’s working on me. Thanks Justin and Trisha for sharing your story, for being open and allowing God to work through you, your ministry and this blog. I know it hits home for me on a regular basis.

  2. I must admit, within my family I am a peacekeeper. The description, as you’ve detailed it in your post, is my life. And it’s exhausting. But coincidentally (or not), just today I decided I’ve got to stop. Your post was right on point today. Thanks to you for writing, and God for His perfect timing.

  3. ginger

    I have a question…not just hypothetical, I really want feedback. Seven years ago, I learned that my husband who I adored, had an affair early in our marriage. I learned years later when paternity paperwork showed up. We worked HARD, spent lots of time in Christian counseling, and came out better than ever. I eventually forgave (hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished because this event drudged up things from my past that hadn’t been fully resolved). We renewed our vows, and started over. I felt safer than ever. He swore on our baby daughters life he never take us back to that horrible, hopeless place. Last fall, I caught him in another affair. There was never a question as to the consequences of a reoccurrence, I kicked him out and got an attorney. After talking to Chris Beall, he came to a new ubderstanding…he was told he had to bring “everything onto the light” for it to lose its power over him. Over the next few weeks, he confesse to a total of 6 affairs over 14 years (all but the most recent prior to the paternity scare). Since I’ve seen it all before, I am skeptical…since his own moral compass doesn’t keep him from breaking his vows and he can so easily forget how painful it is and he actually said “I meant it WHEN I SAID IT” (referring to renewin our vows). He is radically exploring his childhood and personality aspects that lead him to self-destructive patterns. We hear all the time about second chances, but not THIRD chances…is that because someone who has had two is a bad risk? Is there anything that makes one worth the risk…when he’s begging and full of self-hatred, I want to believe that no one is a lost cause…but am I dilusional to even hesitate in ending this marriage?

  4. Meg E.

    I just went through the process of moving away being a peacekeeper as part of finding freedom from my codependency issues. Being raised in the south didn’t help either — for generations my family has done that thing where people paste a strained smile on their faces, deny there are problems, keep feelings bottled up, behave passive-agressively, and are happy to leave everything at the surface where it’s “easy and safe.”

    Earlier this year circumstances brought two forces — heat and pressure — into my family life and the effect was that the illusion of family harmony blew up. I confronted my mother and my sister in ways I could never have imagined having the strength or courage to because they are both really emotionally abusive people. It was scary and I knew they might retaliate, but I also knew I couldn’t go one more day being a peacekeeper.

    Sadly, I currently have no relationship with either my mother or my sister because they did not like me moving from peacekeeper to peacemaker. It broke all the established family rules. It made them uncomfortable because I wouldn’t let things be swept under the rug anymore. It brought too much light and truth about how unhealthy our interactions have been all along. It made things messy and it required effort, which is what real relationship experiences. They’ve decided that I’m just a “Jesus freak” and have gone off the deep end when I should have just left things alone.

    Peacemakers change relationship dynamics and it’s just good to be aware that not everyone will like or accept the change.

  5. THANK YOU. Thank you for this. SO much. I understand what Dennis is saying, and feel that I also must stand and confess to being a peacekeeper!

    This comes at the time I need it most. I am going to print it out and read it daily… as a reminder to MAKE PEACE and stop being a PEACEKEEPER.

    Really needed this…. God’s timing is always so perfect!


  6. Sheri Stewart

    Thank you for this message. I never knew there was a difference,but truely able to understand the difference. Next step to work toward peacemaking, and to get my brother who is curently seperated for this exact reason to see what they r doing before they divorce. It is so hard watching them go thru this when I know the can fix it with a little elbow grease. Thank you for all ur ministry I do enjoy how it comes at just the right time. I guess when GOD asks u minster he knows just where he needs u. Thank you for continuing to help me strengthen my marriage.

  7. I feel like I am at an AA meeting and it is time to stand up and make a confession. (My name is Dennis and I am a recovering peacekeeper.) To be honest I never thought about the difference between peacekeeper and peacemaker and never realized what Jesus was saying in Matthew 5:9. Because of my background as a codependent I took peacekeeping for granted as a needed part of survival. Thanks for helping me see how it hurts intimacy.