Peacework: an excerpt from Richard Rohr

Today, I am sharing an excerpt that I recently came across in Richard Rohr’s biography and reflection upon the life and ministry of Saint Francis, “Hope Against Darkness.” Here, Rohr identifies a false peace that really isn’t peace at all, and points towards a deeper and truer peace. I am finding this excerpt extremely helpful in my attempt to become a person of peace.


“You can take it as a general rule that when you don’t transform your pain you will always transmit it. Zealots and contemporary liberals often have the right conclusion, but their tactics and motives are often dilled with self, power, control, and the same righteousness that they hate in conservatives. Basically, they want to do something to avoid holding the pain until it transforms them. Because of this too common pattern, I have come to mistrust almost all righteous indignation and moral outrage. In my experience, it is hardly ever from God.

“Resurrected” people prayerfully bear witness against injustice and evil—but also agree compassionately to hold their own complicity in that same evil. It is not over there, it is here. It is our problem, not theirs. The Risen Christ, not accidentally, still carries the wounds in has hands and side.

We’ve all been there at different times—I know I’ve been there: trying to drive out “the devil” with your own “prince of devils.” You’re actually energized by having an enemy, someone to hate, because it takes away the inner shame, relieves your inner anxiety.

It gives you, strangely enough, a very false sense of control and superiority, because you’ve spotted the evil and, thank God, it’s over there. As long as they are the problem and you can keep your focus on changing them, correcting them, expelling them as the contaminating element, then you can sit in a reasonably comfortable position. But it’s a position that the saints call pax perniciosa, a dangerous and false peace. It feels like peace, but it’s not true peace. It is the peace of avoidance, denial and projection. The peace of the Crucified comes from holding the tension; the dangerous peace comes from expelling it elsewhere or denying the pain. Yet, to the untrained it feels like peace.

It has taken us a long time to realize that we cannot afford to hate because we become a mirror-but-disguised-image of the same. Once you let the other determine the energy and agenda, you can only react to it, and soon you are the same energy and the same agenda. But you can’t see it.”



It is my hope that we will undertake the work of transforming our own pain, so that we may share the peace of the Crucified and the Resurrected One with the world.


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