COMMENTARY: Peace is possible in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings.


December 15, 2012
Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation

Peace is possible.
I do not understand why handfuls of people – those handfuls representing diverse races and religions and economic and education statuses – reach a point in life that a choice is made to destroy or diminish other lives in calculated or cold or careless ways.

I am at a loss for words and explanations right now. There are no good reasons or justifications for senseless acts of violence, or discrimination, or hatred, or revenge, or whatever. I do not know why some people, and I honestly believe it is ‘handfuls of people’ make the choices they make, because most people are, as Mattie said – ‘generally and genuinely good’.

What I do know is that every moment in every life holds the opportunity for peace, not just as a possibility but as a reality. It comes down to personal choices.

Peace involves good judgement, not judging others.

Peace involves just choices, not choosing justice or revenge or retaliation for others.

Peace involves some level of personal sacrifice – in resources and time and mediation – not self-sacrifice or the sacrificing of others.

Peace involves education and communication and collaboration, not assumption or hearsay or force.

Peace involves understanding. Understanding our own needs that will enable us to survive, and that will also allow us to thrive and know hope and happiness.

Peace involves understanding our neighbors’ needs and not assuming that all people have the same preferences or priorities in needs.

Peace involves balancing and tending to the needs of all people in a fair and just and good way.

Peace involves recognizing that the needs of humanity include not only access to food and water and safety and education, but also respect and hope and happiness and the nurturing of resiliency — so that natural burdens may strengthen us rather than harden us.

Peace necessitates a realization that mental and emotional health needs matter as much in the balance as physical and medical health needs.

Peace grows from a feeling that ‘we matter’ and that we ‘have purpose’ (or as Mattie called it, a “Heartsong”) – despite differences or hardships or preferences.

Peace involves honesty and accuracy in story-telling and news reporting, not sensation or fact-angling.

Peace involves responding to realities in a balanced way, not reacting with emotion or political agendas.

Peace involves balancing privilege with responsibility.

Peace involves compassion and kindness, and patience and respect.

Peace is not about agreeing with or even liking our neighbors around the block or around the world; peace is simply about being with our neighbors — without judgment and with purpose. A good and gentle purpose, which is peace.

Peace is for all people, and peace is possible, if we learn and teach and understand what peace is really about.

Peace does not begin with ending wars or controlling or condemning or hating people we do not know or like or agree with or understand.

Peace begins with choices in thought and attitude, and in word and action – in our homes, in our schools, in our places of work and worship, in our communities.

Peace grows as we support our neighbors in realizing that they matter, and have purpose, even as we matter and have purpose.

Peace involves so many, many worthy basics, and truths.

Peace involves commitment to such basics and truths.

Peace involves role models, who exemplify all the necessary choices and truths that will create peace, despite natural burdens and differences and disasters.

Peace involves planning, and practice, and work. Hard work. Not just a commitment to ideals, but also negotiating and collaborating and creatively considering so many multi-faceted issues that interrupt peace.

Peace involves faith. Faith in Goodness, for this moment, and every next moment, and eternity.

We cannot always choose what happens to us, or to those we love and care for. But we can choose how we reflect any reality onto others, into the world, and unto the future. Peace involves a reflection anchored in hope, and nurtured by others, and strengthened with faith.

As we try to recover from yet another tragedy, it becomes our choice in how to move ‘forthward’ as Mattie would say. And I am certain that Mattie would encourage us to move forthward with a careful response that will support peace beyond the initial emotional reaction.

Mattie would remind us that peace is about fostering resilience and rebuilding the mosaic of humanity, and not about furthering revenge or retaliation. He would implore us to consider the truths of peace, and then to reconsider how we are balancing needs and rights and privileges with securities and responsibilities and protections. And I believe that my son would continue advocating that peace is possible and that it begins with a choice, but that peace also relies on reviewing and updating policies and laws and attitudes and habits that move peace from that ever-present possibility to a reality.

We must seek peace, and embrace peace as an attitude and something that matters in all times, not just when things are going our way.

We must make peace, and nurture it as a habit, and offer it to others through our words and actions.

We must bring peace, and share it with other people – people who look and live and think and pray much like us, and people who look and live and think and pray very differently from us.

We must choose peace as something that matters for ALL people, because peace IS possible, if we make peace our choice.

— These are just thoughts, from “Mama Peace” – who has been crying with too many others in our good world in response to the latest tragedies.

Closing thought for this statement:


“We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts,

to nurture, to offer, to accept.

… and now, let us pray,

differently, yet together…”

    –Mattie J.T. Stepanek

“For Our World” poem excerpt in

 ”Just Peace: A Message of Hope.”


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