Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peacekeepers Beware!

It is my privilege to know some extraordinary people in whose company I feel especially relaxed and peaceful, and to whom I say a reluctant goodbye when the time is up.

What these friends have in common is a generosity of spirit, an openness to life and adventure, and a great sense of humor. I have never known them to have a petty or nasty argument with anyone, although they very much enjoy a heated discussion on principal or on an educated point of view. They are also the voice for reason among quarreling friends and colleagues, and each in their own way exudes a presence that inspires one to stretch oneself, as if to somehow become more noble for the sake of all mankind.

I think that most of us have, on occasion, facilitated peace in our immediate world by clearing up misunderstandings between family members and among friends. Or perhaps by diffusing a tense situation at work. It comes naturally to people who don't shy away from confrontation for the right cause. If you count yourself in this group, you're doing well.

I have chosen my friend *Lisa's story to warn peacekeepers of another kind. Lisa is married to Bob and has children from a previous marriage to Frank. Frank was physically abusive whenever something didn't go his way, or when Lisa gave him a “look” he didn't like, or when the wrong music was playing on the radio. In order to keep the peace, Lisa obeyed her husband in everything and tried to avoid anything that might cause him to become violent. Frank though of himself as having “class” -  he always apologized after he beat her up, sometimes there were even tears in his eyes when he proclaimed that “he could never live without her.”  On occasion there were flowers.  Every time was the “last time,” and Lisa kept the peace until the next time. She finally ran away with her children when the violence had escalated to the point that she believed he would kill her.

She married Bob a day after she divorced Frank. At first, Bob seemed different. He was highly educated and espoused strong views for women's rights. He welcomed her children, as long as they obeyed the rules in his house. It was always his house, even though Lisa worked a full time job. (So much for women's rights.)  Bob had a temper, and it became evident very quickly that it became much much worse when he drank alcohol.

Lisa, being an experienced peacekeeper, tried to cover all the bases that could start trouble. Her boys were teenagers at the time and she did their chores when they “forgot,” covered their tracks when they broke things in the house by wrestling and rough-housing while Lisa and Bob were working. To keep the peace, she wouldn't punish them for anything they did. To make a long story short, Bob's anger with the past, present and future, grew steadily worse with time as did his drinking. After calling his wife every obscene name in the book and accusing her of not contributing s--t, he, like Frank, apologized. She accepted to keep the peace. Lisa started having severe anxiety attacks with bouts of depression, and kept them secret for fear of being called crazy.

Bob left Lisa. Lisa's sons have left her as well. One doesn't speak to her at all, and the other has just grown distant. Lisa tried to stay close with them as they grew older and never criticized or gave an unwanted opinion. She knew how to keep peace, but not how to get respect or keep love.

The purpose of the story is a warning to all women who seek peace at home at all costs. Know that you will be bearing all the cost, but you will get no peace. The problem with Lisa's life is Lisa. Whatever the reason for her low self-esteem may have been, she gave no cause for anyone to treat her better. Instead, she gave the men in her life the power to grow more and more violent in their outbursts to her, because she became ever more afraid. And stayed!

If someone you are close to has a bad temper and you tolerate it to keep peace, ask yourself, “Do I really have peace or am I just afraid to stand up for myself? What do I think would happen if I spoke my mind? What if I threatened with consequences?"

You maybe in a very dangerous place if you are experiencing fear.  Leave while you can and seek counseling.  Feeling less important than someone else will make you a victim over and over again.

Learn to be a peacemaker for yourself.  All good things come from that.


  1. Thank you for posting this.

    Self-esteem seems a 'higher' purpose that insuring safety for the children, regardless of their behavior, and I always wonder if there's many conflicting values at hand in these situations.

    People who've grown up in abusive homes know how powerless and trapped it feels and everything in you feels like your priority is to insure safety.

    Why bother to try and change someone who is irrational? We're supposed to not be able to change people so what is one fighting for? The known enemy is better than the unknown.

    That's the thinking I think occurs ... if I fight back I am like them; violence is wrong; I can't use reason to fight ignorance; better me than the kids; etc.

    So articles like these that help people identify and challenge their core values is what I guess it will take to change someone's world.

  2. Thank you for this post. I second everything in Randy's comment.

    The post reminds me of a discussion I heard in the "Tribal Leadership" audiobook. There is a stage where people are passive victims, which often has a symbiotic relationship with an authority figure in the next higher-up stage of "I'm Great (and you're not)".

    According to the framework in this book, persons in the victim stage must first transition to the "I'm Great (and you're not)" stage at which point they will start fighting with the authority figure.

    "Tribal Leadership" focuses on workplaces but I am struck by the similarity with the advice you've posted here.

  3. There was a recent study of recordings made of women visiting their men in jail. The men were there due to violence they did to the women, some of it very severe.

    The men didn't threaten "If you don't get me out, I'll hurt you when I do get out."

    Instead, they apologized. It's terrible in here. This is way worse than what I deserve. I only broke your jaw, but they locked me up for a felony! I'm not like the others in here. It's so unfair. They're working to break us apart. We need to work together, stand together against the system. It's us against the world.

    Insidious, and very powerful on a woman who doesn't value herself.