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Excerpted from Living Peace by John Dear. Copyright 2001 by John Dear. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 

"The deeper we go into our true identities, the more we will realize that each one of us is a unique yet beloved child of the God of peace."

  John Dear, Living Peace, Part 2

This lifelong journey toward inner peace requires regular self-examination and an ongoing process of making peace with ourselves. It means constantly examining the roots of violence within us, weeding out those roots, diffusing the violence that we aim at ourselves and others, and choosing to live in peace. It means treating ourselves with compassion and kindness. As we practice mercy toward ourselves, we begin to enjoy life more and more and celebrate it as adventure in peace. We turn again and again to the God who created us and offer sincere thanks. By persistently refraining from violence and hatred and opening up to that spirit of peace and mercy, we live life to the fullest, and help make the world better for others.

But this process of making peace with ourselves can be one of the most difficult challenges we face. Each one of us wrestles with our own demons. The daily challenge is to befriend those demons, embrace our true selves, make friends with ourselves, disarm our hearts, and accept in peace who we are. The deeper we go into our true identities, the more we will realize that each one of us is a unique yet beloved child of the God of peace. In that truth, we find the strength to live in peace.

For some, this inner struggle is just too difficult. Many prefer to endure their inner wars, believing that they cannot change, that inner peace is not realizable, that life is just too hard. Others succumb to violence and despair. I well remember my friend Mitch Snyder, the leading advocate for the homeless. For nearly twenty years, Mitch spoke out against poverty, organized demonstrations for housing, fasted for social change, and was arrested for civil disobedience on behalf of justice for the poor. He was director of the largest homeless shelter in the United States, a facility with over one thousand beds just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. In the mid-1980s, while I was managing a small church shelter for the homeless in Washington, D.C., I often visited with Mitch and discussed the plight of the homeless and our campaign to secure decent, affordable housing for them.

Mitch gave his life for the forgotten and the poor, but became consumed by his anger against the system that oppresses the poor into homelessness. He advocated nonviolence, but suffered many personal demons which eventually got the best of him. For years, Mitch fought to gain local legislation guaranteeing the right of every person to shelter. Finally, in 1990, his effort was defeated. At the same time, a personal relationship broke down. On July 3, 1990, he gave in to despair, and killed himself. His suicide shocked and saddened us all.

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