“You’re too nice.”
“The world is going to eat you alive if you don’t get a backbone.”
“Stick up for yourself!”
I’ve often had messages like this directed at me—often by well-meaning, protective loved ones.
I am a highly sensitive person. I am one who does not thrive in contention—I shrivel. I avoid conflict like the plague, and I often refrain from taking sides on issues rather than share my opinion and risk hurting feelings. And let’s not forget anger! Anger deflates my spirit at the same speed a safety pin pops a balloon.
(I know, right? How am I even still functioning?)
My husband and I lovingly joke that my sensitive, soft soul is comparable to a dandelion—sturdy in the calm, but fragile and prone to shattering and scattering if strong winds of contention come too close.
Perhaps you can relate.
With this in mind, I have been extremely weary of the contentious winds billowing throughout the earth lately. I have felt inner turmoil as I’ve witnessed conflicts—both personal and worldwide—darkening the peace of my soul.
At times I really have felt like a dandelion whose seeds have been long-since scattered—just an empty, exhausted stem drifting in the raging winds. I have always seen my tendency for peacemaking as a weakness and a sign I need to “toughen up” against the world if I want to stand up for anything I care about.
After all, it seems the loudest and most demanding voices always seem to be the most heard and the most likely to bring about change and justice these days.
So, ultimately, questions like, Am I weak? How can I be strong, opinionated, and Christlike? How will anybody take me seriously if I am always being too nice? have been at the forefront of my mind lately.
That is, until I felt the words of Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles pierce my soul during general conference when he said: “How does a peacemaker calm and cool the fiery darts? Certainly not by shrinking before those who disparage us. Rather, we remain confident in our faith, sharing our beliefs with conviction but always void of anger or malice. …
“Peacemakers are not passive; they are persuasive in the Savior’s way.”1
Tears prickled my eyes (of course) when I heard his poignant words. Being a peacemaker is being persuasive and Christlike? It’s a strength? It’s not just about not having a backbone?
And the next day, I was struck again when I heard President Russell M. Nelson give a specific piece of prophetic counsel about conflict. He said: “None of us can control nations or the actions of others. … But we can each control ourselves. My call today … is to end the conflicts that are raging in your heart, your home, and your life.”2
I noted so much prophetic counsel about restoring peace and immediately considered what conflicts I have been fighting in my life. And good grief—for someone who avoids contention, I suddenly saw quite a bit in my heart.
I feel powerless and hopeless about the conflict I can’t control in the world.
I’m ashamed when I avoid speaking up for my beliefs out of fear of being blown to smithereens by anger or rejection.
I often act passive-aggressively and feel resentment toward others when they are unkind and I don’t retaliate.
I feel and hold on to deep hurt when I witness people leaving the gospel of Jesus Christ and sharing harsh words toward my faith.
Despite these realizations, I felt in that moment that President Nelson was right—I can’t end all conflicts, but I can end my own.
Looking at the life of the Savior, who truly was the strongest and yet the most peaceful person who ever walked this earth, I see now what being a peacemaker entails. While it may be the angry and contentious voices that often fill up our news and social feeds, it is always the kind peacemaker who ultimately brings about positive change and clarity by sharing truths in thoughtful, peaceful ways.
Having the courage to maintain peace is having strength and backbone in this contentious world.
By exercising faith in Christ, I can fully embrace my soft heart and choose to end conflicts in my life. I can spread peace in my life and in the lives of those I love. I can communicate clearly, forgive, and let go of resentment. I can confidently speak up and share my perspective kindly or know when to respectfully withdraw from contention. I can love and even be loved by those who don’t always have kind things to say about my faith.
Contention may threaten to shatter my fragile, dandelion soul at times. But I’ve witnessed how the small measures of kindness and love I try to share can scatter in the raging wind and plant seeds of peace and hope in others’ hearts.
President Nelson’s words instilled me with comfort and power when he said: “[Jesus Christ’s] gospel is the only enduring solution for peace. His gospel is a gospel of peace.
“His gospel is the only answer when many in the world are stunned with fear.”3
That is how powerful our messages of peace can be as disciples of Jesus Christ.
I am amazed time and time again how prophets and apostles continue to share truths from God that my heart is longing for. I am a work-in-progress, but I’m so grateful for the promise of growth, the enabling power, and the perfect example of the greatest peacemaker there ever was—“The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6; 2 Nephi 19:6).
He will always give me the strength to scatter seeds of peace.