Being at Peace with Ourselves
You can be at peace with yourself even when everything in the world is falling apart around you and outside of you. But you cannot be at peace with yourself if things are not right inside. There are 3 key internal areas that must be in harmony; Mind, Emotions and Conscience.
PEACE OF MIND
Mental peace has to do with logic and reason. We cannot be mentally at peace when we're trying to maintain a position that is logically contradictory. As a simple example, if we believe the mail always comes at 2 p.m. and we have no mail at 2:30 p.m. we begin to sense a tension, especially if we're expecting an important delivery. Our minds begin to be preoccupied with possible reasons for the delay: maybe the mail is late, or it came but there was nothing for us, or the postman missed us, or it was stolen. We will be increasingly ill at ease until we resolve the apparent contradiction that challenged our belief that the mail would arrive at 2 p.m.
Our mind contains many beliefs about life, some less important than the time of the mail delivery, and some far more important. The really important beliefs have to do with what are called the 'big questions' of life --- where did I come from, what is my purpose in the universe, what is my destiny, etc. While all of our internal beliefs together make up what is often called a 'worldview' ---- that is, a mental picture of how I believe the world is ----- the 'big question' issues tend to set the borders, frame and major color tones for this picture. If I have lived up to this point believing that there is no God, and suddenly begin to question that belief (or vice versa), I will have major internal unrest until I get that question satisfactorily resolved. We're not saying that this kind of internal tension is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, it propels us to an honest and serious quest for Truth, and that is a very good thing. If you think that sorting out particular beliefs is a source of tension for you at the moment, check out the TRUTH QUEST page.
Emotional Peace obviously has to do with the state of our emotions. A lot of people think that some emotions are right and others are wrong. We think it is better to consider them in terms of 'positive' and 'negative'. Emotions are natural inner responses to some event. While we might not like the emotional response we find welling up, it is not 'wrong'. Rather, it is an indicator that tells us something about our inner state. Emotions are similar to physical responses in our bodies such as pain and temperature. If I have a fever, I'm not happy about it, but I don't blame the fever. The fever tells me something is wrong in my body and I start looking for and dealing with whatever that issue is. There are four basic emotion groups in our human makeup. One of them is positive and three are negative. They are; joy, anger, grief and fear. Under normal circumstances we're pulled ahead in life by a sense of joy, optimism and anticipation of things we're looking forward to. However, as we face conflicts and distresses of different kinds we tend to be pulled into one of the negative emotional states. This is perfectly natural and requires working through the negative emotion to the point of resolution. This is not a bad thing, and, in fact, is the major instigator of personal growth in our lives. But it is possible to get 'stuck' in anger, grief or fear. If that happens it is as unhealthy for us as a physical wound that never heals. Our 'inner' wound can begin to become infected and produce all kinds of nasty things. If you feel like you're dealing with unresolved emotional issues, check out the EMOTIONAL AWARENESS page.
The third inner area is that of conscience. It is probably harder to get a 'bead' on conscience than either mental or emotional conflicts, because it is even less tangible than these. Our conscience rises from within like a 'sense'. The closest we can come to describing it, is like something we 'smell' or 'feel' or 'hear'. These physical sensations can be very strong or very faint, and we learn to automatically notice them and sort out their importance. For example, if I'm outside and detect a strong odor of burning leaves I won't give it a second thought. But if I'm inside the house and notice even the slightest whiff of smoke, I'll go into full alert until I'm satisfied that the house is not on fire.
The conscience is a fascinating part of the human makeup. Those who accept the existence of God see it as something that ties us into the moral law of the universe so that we know when we have violated it or are in danger of doing so. Even further, some consider the conscience to be a significant proof of the existence of God and of the fact that there is a spiritual dimension to life. If this is true, then our conscience ties in to our relationship with God, and is directly impacted by that relationship. Explore this thought further on the Peace with God page. Those who want to see the conscience from a naturalistic perspective come up with various explanations for it's existence, such as social or biological conditioning. However you account for it, a conscience in conflict creates a serious source of inner turmoil. It is usually a contradiction between something we 'want' to do vs. something we think we are 'supposed' to do. A conscience in conflict needs to have the tension resolved either by choosing the perceived right course of action, or by making 'right' the perceived 'wrong'. The recovery community calls this 'making amends'. It is the process of asking the pardon or forgiveness of someone you consider yourself to have violated and doing what you can to restore or 'make restitution' for any damage you have inflicted. It is possible for the conscience to be misshaped, either by being overly- or underly-sensitive. Some people are so overly sensitive that they feel guilty for doing something that no reasonable person and no religious tenet would consider to be wrong. This is often referred to as 'false guilt'. On the other hand, the conscience can be ignored and willfully suppressed so that our sense of it becomes much dimmer and even extinguished. We use terms like 'psychopath' or 'sociopath' to describe a person devoid of caring about doing wrong. The Bible calls this a 'seared' conscience. Just as the conscience can be suppressed, it can be strengthened, by learning to recognize it, judge it properly and heed it appropriately. Go deeper in thinking about these matters on the CLEAR CONSCIENCE page.