As a life coach, I encounter a lot of Christian women 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 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 God would prefer you invest somewhere else. Discerning which is which is one of the greatest leadership skills a Christian can learn.
Another thing we have to come to terms with is that “right” can sometimes be relevant based on our own perspective and relationship with God. What God is pushing me to work on or work out of my system may not be what He has you focusing on. Sometimes we disagree because we have not gotten to that part of our story yet. Again, it requires prayerful discernment 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 people who get defensive or make personal attacks) but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer.
Additionally, I’d encourage you to go deep with God on the idea of being a peacemaker.
There are certainly situations that call for peace. But I also firmly believe toxic religious culture teaches women that it is always better to have peace. Even if it’s a false peace that looks a lot more like codependency and enabling than the peace that Jesus talked about.
It’s so deeply rooted in toxic patriarchal culture that I think it gets passed on without most of us even seeing it.
So, how do you know if you are pursuing peacemaking or enabling? Here are a few questions to help you reflect and decide:
1. 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?
2. What’s the impact 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.
3. What are we protecting?
Why do we feel motivated to keep the peace? A lot of time women learn to keep the peace out of fear. Fear of abandonment. Of retribution. Or fear that God will punish them for not being a peacekeeper. God is never going to ask us to do His work out of fear. Perfect love casts out fear. Trying to stop a situation or conflict from happening out of fear is enabling. 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. A lot of time the message from toxic religious culture says 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, I pray that you would have the wisdom and courage to use your voice. Confront lies. And protect the vulnerable. May we all be true peacemakers, and embrace necessary conflict without enabling injustice, codependency, patriarchy, or toxic religious culture.
Angela J Herrington, MA, LSCC is a Life and Leadership Coach for Christian Women at AngelaJHerrington.com , founder of Broken Beautiful BOLD online women’s ministry, and Christian feminist activator at WildSacredHoly.com.
Angela is a spunky Gen Xer who creates sacred spaces for vulnerable exploration. Her specialty is helping Christian women untangle themselves from limiting beliefs, toxic religious culture, and all the ways the enemy tries to keep them small. She holds a BA from Indiana Wesleyan and a Masters in Leadership from Wesley Seminary. Her graduate research project focused on leadership development and opportunities for Gen X women in the US church.
Angela and her unique online ministry were featured in Lyz Lenz’s 2019 book God Land: Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America. She also has been published in Hope for Women and HOPE is Now magazines.
Angela is also a Lark’s Song Certified Life Coach who reaches hundreds of thousands of women in 40+ countries each month on Facebook, IG, Twitter, Pinterest, and two blogs. She is Director of Communications for Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy, a women-led organization dedicated to engaging, empowering, and equipping women to lead in the church.
Angela is also a wife, mom to 6, and proud resident of Marion, Indiana with her family when they’re not traveling the US in their RV.