Self-Care as Peace Practice

Here is a piece that I wrote for my denomination’s (Presbyterian Church USA) Season of Peace. If you need another reason to take care of yourself, here you go:

Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him, “Get up! Eat something!” Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep. The Lord’s messenger returned a second time and tapped him. “Get up!” the messenger said. “Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you.” Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God’s mountain.
— 1 Kings 19:5b–8 (CEB)

I have a workout tank top that reads “Weights and Wine: Because punching people is frowned upon.” (I am a Gen-X, straight, cis, white woman. I’m required to have at least one T-shirt that references wine.)

Now, I have never punched anyone. Ever. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t wanted to. I am really bad at being angry. While some people are energized by anger, it absolutely exhausts me. And when I’m tired, I get cranky. And when I’m cranky is when I’m most likely to resort to violence. For me, violence is more likely to manifest itself in shouted or hurtful words, but we all know (contrary to what we learned as children) that words DO hurt and can cause wounds that can take years to heal. Sometimes words inflict the kind of pain that never heals.

So, when I’m ready to punch someone (literally or metaphorically), I know it’s time for me to take a step back. Sneak in a 20-minute nap. Have a snack. Drink some water. Maybe even pray about it. (I know. Radical stuff.)

We often don’t think of self-care and soul care as tools of nonviolence, but peaceful responses to stressful, upsetting and tension-filled situations require energy and imagination on our part. And when we are weary and worn-out, responding to violence with violence can often feel like the easiest thing to do.

Action:  Pay attention to those times when anger and violence are welling up within you. Have a plan to de-escalate your own self so that you can respond in ways that are peaceful and redemptive.

Prayer:  Prince of peace, lead us in your way. Help us to be a peaceful, transformative presence in this world that is hell-bent on violence. Amen.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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