As a faith deconstruction coach, I encounter a lot of Christians and former Christians with an incomplete, and often unhealthy view of what it means to be a peacemaker.Years and years of toxic religious culture and patriarchal conditioning have led many, especially women, to believe that being a peacemaker means refusing to argue. Refusing to engage in any and all forms of conflict. Or even bending over backward to make sure that others are comfortable, even in situations where they are in the wrong. However, this type of thinking actually tends to cause more harm than good. And the damage extends to both our own lives and the lives of others.
There are times to take a stand, even when it’s uncomfortable. And there are times when it’s just a waste of energy.Learning which applies in a situation is going to save you a lot of heartache and wasted energy. Another thing we have to come to terms with is that “right” can sometimes be relevant based on our own perspective, experience, and faith. What I’m working out of my system may not be what you are focusing on. Sometimes we disagree because we have not gotten to that part of our story yet. Again, it requires wisdom to know if the conflict we encounter is simply a disagreement that can be a waste of energy or an important moment to take a stand. So, all that to say, we need to keep an open mind and truly believe that every single person we talk to has something to offer we may not see. They may never choose to reveal it (as is the case with those who get defensive or make personal attacks) but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer. The key is to know how much you’re willing to invest in the conversation as well as how safe the other person is.
Toxic religious culture teaches women that it is always better to make peace. Even if it’s a false peace that looks a lot more like codependency and enabling.It’s so deeply rooted in toxic religious culture that it gets passed on without most of us knowing it’s a bad thing. Deconstructing your faith from this belief is crucial.
So, how do you know if you are pursuing peace or enabling toxic behavior? Here are a few questions to help you reflect and decide:
- Whose peace are you protecting? Is someone in danger, or receiving threats? Peacemaking is perceived as just avoiding conflict, but conflict is a healthy part of life. So if you’re bending over backward to just avoid conflict, are you really keeping the peace, or are you perceiving threats that aren’t actually there? Conflict itself isn’t bad. Sometimes we avoid it because it makes us uncomfortable. Other times we avoid it because the other people who are in the conflict with us don’t fight fair and they aren’t safe to be around. So again, boundaries are key in this space.
- What impact is this is having on you? Are you keeping the peace for everyone else while adding worry, stress, or responsibility that isn’t yours? A lot of time I see women managing other people. Trying hard to keep them from feeling the repercussions of their own actions. But what happens is instead of other people dealing with the consequences, the peacemaker ends up shouldering all of those consequences. So you’re not actually keeping the peace, you’re just shifting conflict. It shifts from a conflict that is happening out in the open between people to a conflict that is happening internally with you and the decisions you’re making. And that pressure should actually be landing on someone else.
- What are you protecting? Why do we feel motivated to keep the peace? A lot of time women learn to keep the peace out of fear. We’ve been taught to fear abandonment or retribution. Speaking up and taking up space will often lead to us being pushed out of a particular circle. There’s also pressure to be meek and mild; otherwise, God will punish us. Trying to stop a conflict or prevent it from happening because you’re afraid of how the other person may react may be a coping mechanism if you’ve experienced trauma, but it is also enabling in many cases. What would be healthier for everyone in the conversation would be to work through the conflict or prevent it altogether. Example: In the case of abuse, leaving. Patriarchal and toxic religious culture conditions women not to confront their abusers out of fear of what might happen. But a lot of times we are not taught how to leave. Often the message from toxic religious culture and patriarchal beliefs say to stay in it and work harder. It says that it’s your job to resolve and bring peace and love to the relationship. But relationships are definitely not one-sided things.
As you move forward in deconstructing your faith, use your voice. Have the wisdom and courage to confront lies to protect the vulnerable. May we all be true peacemakers, and embrace necessary conflict without enabling injustice, codependency, patriarchy, or toxic beliefs.
Hey there friend! I’m Angela J Herrington, MA, LSCC and I’m a Faith Deconstruction coach who provides soul care for people who are untangling from toxic religion.
As a certified life coach and seminary-trained online pastor, I have a lot of experience helping people connect with God. But this is also a very personal journey for me.
For the last decade, I’ve been on my own journey to break free from learned smallness and step into wild sacred holy womanhood. Long story short, after finding faith in my early 30’s I began to realize that what I was hearing from the church about women didn’t always line up with what God was telling me. I loved God but realized the church was teaching some really toxic stuff.
So this Enneagram 8, first born, Gen Xer started deconstructing. I questioned and challenged everything I thought I knew about faith, gender, and myself.
It was messy and took a lot of work to sort it out. Therapy. Coaching. Bodywork. Spiritual healing. Conferences and retreats. And even a couple of college degrees.
You name it…I tried it.
But the thing that made the biggest difference was the presence and support of wise people who helped me up when I didn’t know where else to turn.
That’s why in September 2021, I created and hosted The Deconstructing Faith Summit. I gathered 20 phenomenal deconstruction experts to share their expertise and hosted over 1100 attendees in the week-long virtual event. Those who attended realized they weren’t alone, had a safe space to ask questions, learned dozens of strategies to help them deconstruct, and released tons of pent-up emotions they didn’t even know they were carrying around.
We laughed, we cried, and we danced, but the best part was…We did it together.
It was AMAZING and it was just the beginning.
So now, I’m doubling down on my commitment to create an inclusive support system for people, like you, who are longing to get away from toxic religion and cultivate a nourishing spiritual life.