3 Practical Methods for Maintaining Peace in Everyday Life
In his book, Jesus as Friend, Salvatore Canals states, “I think I should say it again: the virtue of serenity is a rare virtue, for many people’s lives are ruled by their nerves.”
The Virtues of Serenity and Faith
Maintaining peace throughout our everyday challenges is a virtue we must all master in order to obtain true happiness. We call this ability to maintain peace in all circumstances the virtue of serenity and it is in many ways a uniquely Christian virtue because it is an outflow of the theological virtue of faith.
The virtue of serenity “…teaches us to see things in their true light and evaluate them properly” (Salvatore Canals in Jesus as Friend, page 48). For the Christian, this light is the supernatural light of faith. Through faith, the heart and mind are given the gift to understand many things. But perhaps more importantly, even the things we do not understand will lose the power to disturb our soul for faith provides a unique confidence.
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Our faith tells us that all things, good or bad, and even those we do not understand are reconcilable with the will of God and his loving fatherhood for his children. Hence, the apostle can proclaim,
“…you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”” (Romans 8:15)
We march forth in confidence and peace because God is a Father we can trust. Thus, like children we can trust we are always safe as long as we are in His presence. Our tears will always find a place of consolation and our wounds will always find a source of compassion.
Tips for Maintaining Peace and Serenity
Serenity like all virtues is an acquired habit. Like all virtue, it is obtained through the practice of repeated actions requiring great effort and perseverance. Salvatore Canals even goes so far as to say that effort and perseverance are the price of serenity.
So, what are the habits and actions that cultivate serenity as a virtue? Obviously, there are a great many. However, I would like to propose three for our current reflection.
#1 Know your triggers!
I particularly like the way Canals describes the lack of serenity as the state of being ruled by our nerves. So many times, my negative reactions are reflexive. In a real manner, this is a nervous system reaction. Specifically, the sympathetic nervous system is designed to help us respond to our circumstances by triggering the fight or flight response.
The scenario usually goes something like this. My two oldest are fighting with one another while the toddler screams. My 4-year-old is throwing a temper tantrum which has lasted for the last 15 minutes. The children are simultaneously laughing and crying while they work themselves into a fury, all at the very moment they are supposed to be calming down to go to bed or we are trying to head out the door for some family fun. The next thing I know, I am “flipping my lid” which is a very good description of what is actually going on in my mind as the upper brain which is in charge of reason and impulse control succumbs to the lower brain who is all emotion.
Hence, in our home we have developed rules to preempt these situations. My 4-year-old must remain downstairs until breakfast is on the table. My daughter has to go to a quiet place to play alone after dinner while we make sure baths and teeth brushing are completed and several more. Inevitably, when we break the rules the peace in the house suffers. When we follow them, we all live happier and more harmoniously together.
#2 Cultivate Silent Time
Canals notes that time is the great instrument of serenity. It seems that the mere passage of time provides the perspective that we need. Time has a way of placing all things in their right order. Events which seemed momentous become only a blip on the radar screen of life.
Moreover, time spent in silence stimulates the great biological system of peace, the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is designed to restore order and return the body to peace once a threatening situation has passed. Going to a quiet place removes the sights, sounds, and stimulations that the sympathetic nervous system interprets as threats. Silence allows the parasympathetic system to be active. It allows us to experience the passage of time without stress or anxiety and for time to do its work.
#3 Resolve Not To Complain
Canals note that the loss of serenity results when we “deform” reality. (Salvatore Canals in Jesus as Friend, page 48) The act of complaining distorts our perception of the challenges we face. It magnifies the faults of others. Rather, than viewing challenges in their “true light” or “evaluating them properly”, we make ourselves victims. Often times, complaining is utilized to excuse our own inaction or responsibility.
The refusal to complain makes us solution oriented. Rather than fanning our emotions, we are forced to apply reason, evaluate circumstance, and calmly plan a course of action. All of this requires a calm mind.
I hope these three practices increase the peace that you experience in your daily lives. Finally, I would like to leave you with the great serenity prayer.