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Peace is Good. You Go First: The Elusive Peace and Producing It

Updated: 5 days ago

It is a remark I often hear when I propose cooperation and interest in others: — “But others don’t show any interest in me!” My answer is always: “Somebody has to begin. If the others are not cooperative, it is not your affair. My advice is that you should begin and not care whether the others are cooperative.
~  Alfred Adler ~


In a unique, amazing, and exceptional historical moment, enemies in one of the bloodiest and most cruel wars held their peace for a few precious hours of sanity. The Christmas Truce of 1914, also known as Weihnacksfrienden in German, lasted for approximately a day. While not sanctioned by the commanders on either side, it is estimated that 100,000 soldiers participated in the truce.

Many such “enemies” left their trenches and swapped food and presents, engaged in conversation, exchanged prisoners, buried dead comrades in the no man’s land, and even played together. This uncommon but noble event proves that men of goodwill can put their differences aside, commune in common humanity, and benefit from the blessings of peace.

What can we learn from this event to prevent wars and follow peace?

What Makes War Possible?

Let’s leverage the MP's meaning construct model to help us dissect and solve the problem.

First, attributing another as an “enemy” gives us a license to objectify and dehumanize. These attributions have consequences. In meaningful purpose psychology (MP), we teach that the meaning given to another will be fulfilled. Whatever we attribute to be true of others, we will treat them accordingly. There is no escape from that fact.

~ Alfred Adler ~

Second, building on the previous point, attributing or labeling our antagonists as “enemies” will spur feelings of distrust, fear, anger, envy, jealousy, and hate.

~ Alfred Adler

Our feelings towards others are not isolated experiences. They are always accompanied by an attitude, a stance that either draws us closer or pushes us away from others. Feelings of fear, anger, and hate, when directed toward others, can and do fuel an adversarial attitude. This attitude, in turn, can lead or aim to acts of violence, both verbal and physical. Recognizing this cycle is crucial if we are to break free from its destructive grip and move towards a more peaceful coexistence.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.
 ~ William James ~

Adversarial tensions create cognitive dissonance. Our sensible belief system knows that hostility does not make sense, that it is irrational, and that there should be a better or more diplomatic way to resolve issues. Yet, it eludes the many. Blinded by fear, rancor, animosity, and incompetence, people are prone to shut down common sense to commit uncommon evil acts.

Holding on to beliefs limits our experience of life. That doesn't mean that beliefs or ideas or thinking is a problem; the stubborn attitude of having to have things be a particular way, grasping on to our beliefs and thoughts, all these cause the problems. To put it simply, using your belief system this way creates a situation in which you choose to be blind instead of being able to see, to be deaf instead of being able to hear, to be dead rather than alive, asleep rather than awake.
Pema Chodron

Fourth, fear, anger, hate, and ignorance can potentially and too frequently override our values. Those individuals who have not vetted their code of values are particularly vulnerable to suffering. Ethical, moral, and humane guiding principles are abandoned to drive and give license to the worst of us and hurt others.

Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.
~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

Our Solution

Here are some simple MP principles for peace.

1.   Replace the label “enemy” with “friend” or “brother/sister. Do your best to remove negative attributions or labels about others from your lexicon.

Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God.
Ronald Reagan

2.   Study to convince yourself that violence does not make sense. Research subjects such as history, sociology, psychology, and others to inform yourself about the outcome of conflict—in any form. Then, trust your findings.

Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.
John Adams

3.   Vet your values to see if they are robust enough to resist immoral, unethical, and violent compulsions. Our studies have shown that many have not done a conscious inventory of their value system, which is a risky state.

Without virtue, happiness cannot be.
Thomas Jefferson

4.   Commit to love and peace. MP practitioners are an unashamed prosocial community dedicated to promoting psychological and physical safety and well-being.

Peace, with charity, begins at home.
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt ~

5.   Check your attitude. You can notice an attitude change and the feelings that accompany it. Are the feelings and attitudes noble, loving, and peaceful? If they are negative and adversarial, go to step one.

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.
John F. Kennedy

6.   Aim high. Aspire to live a meaningful life and benefit from it. Be your best and do your best.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change we seek."
~ Barack Obama ~

Peace is Good. You Go First.

I started this article with a quote by Alfred Adler:

It is a remark I often hear when I propose cooperation and interest in others: — “But others don’t show any interest in me!” My answer is always: “Somebody has to begin. If the others are not cooperative, it is not your affair. My advice is that you should begin and not care whether the others are cooperative.

Our sages and history call on us to find the courage to follow the meaningful path. Peace is impossible unless we see and treat every human being as a brother and sister and open the doors of love and mutual respect (being prosocial).

In 1914, enemies created a space – however brief – to demonstrate that real peace – the absence of hostility - is possible when we place our common humanity above all, whatever the motives and differences.

Will we “begin and not care whether the others are cooperative” practicing peace or will we be part of the problem? Life calls us to choose between two options, the meaningful and meaningless paths. By the way, these options are not “optional.” They are forced by life upon us.

Every individual acts and suffers in accordance with his peculiar teleology, which has all the inevitability of fate, so long as he does not understand it. The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change. Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.
~ Alfred Adler ~

To learn more about the meaningful path to love and peace, contact us at

A short video of my latest blog: Peace is Good. You Go First.

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