As we begin the New Year it is with a sense of hope that we can avoid the painful arguments, hurtful remarks and misunderstandings which have harmed our relationships in the past. We seek to make amends with friends and family over the High Holidays and resolve that things will be different in the future. But moving forward, we may also wonder if we can really change patterns of relating that have been perpetuated for years or decades.
Many people recognize the power of affirmations to help create our reality, even if we don’t initially believe what we are saying. In a sense, by constantly affirming what we want to become, we create the motivation to actualize it. Of course, words alone have minimal impact if they are not concretized through actions.
What follows are ten affirmations to increase our ability to reduce or eliminate many of the contentious interactions we wish could have averted. With G-d’s help, they can provide a foundation for a more peaceful future for each of us as individuals and as part of the Jewish people.
1. I Place A Great Value On Maintaining Peaceful Relationships And Am Willing To Invest The Time And Effort To Actualize This Value.
We all say we want more peaceful relationships. But how much do we want them? If we really want a job, we might seek advice from mentors, study the field we are interested in, speak to people in the field, etc. This could require a lot of effort on our part, but it would be part of the price we pay to hopefully find a job/career that gives us satisfaction. Even if economic circumstances or industry trends prevent us from getting that job, at least we know we did all we could to make it happen.
So it is with creating a climate for peace. In this endeavor, the work could be reading books that outline ways to avoid conflict; preparing for encounters with difficult people by anticipating their behavior and strategizing in advance how to deal with them; seeking advice from a trusted friend and praying for the strength not to react with anger when our buttons are pushed the wrong way.
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin writes in his book, Harmony With Others: Formulas, Stories,
And Insights: “When you’ve integrated a love of peace, you will be willing to put in much energy and effort to attain it…How do you build up a love of peace? The same way you build up positive feelings toward another person: You focus on the virtues. The more virtues you see in someone, the more positively you will feel towards him. Reflect on the benefits and virtues of peace.
“A question to keep in mind is: If I had an intense love of peace, what would I be willing to say and do? So before getting involved in a quarrel, ask yourself: Compared to my ultimate purpose in life, how important is this…Will I regret that I did not quarrel when I look back at my entire life?”
2. I Accept Responsibility For My Words And Actions And Their Power To Create Peace Or Divisiveness.
In most arguments, it’s easy to look at our adversary and find one or more reasons why he/she is responsible for the acrimony between us. Indeed, these reasons may even be valid. But this focus prevents us from acknowledging our own role in the dispute and our power to change the destructive dynamic. On the other hand, accepting responsibility will allow us to seek alternative ways of dealing with the substance of the dispute. We will strive to use non-threatening language, moderate our tone of our voice, strive to see the other’s perspective, etc. As Dr. Richard Carlson noted in his best-selling book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…And It’s All Small Stuff: “In terms of personal happiness, you cannot be peaceful while at the same time blaming others. Surely there are times when other people and/or circumstances (contribute) to our problems, but it is we who must rise to the occasion and take responsibility for our own happiness.
“…This doesn’t mean that you don’t hold yourself accountable for their reactions, but that you hold yourself accountable for your own happiness and for your reactions to other people and the circumstances around you.”