When Peace is Threatened by Toxic People, Environments, and Ideologies

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

I have an ongoing interest in the topic of stress as exhibited by the “fight or flight” reaction in our nervous system and mind, and how it affects everything: relationships, families, neighborhoods, and nations.

Not to mention health.

And when health is compromised, we are vulnerable in all sorts of ways.

In short, unless steps are taken to deal with the real and/or perceived stress, the result is not good.

The body is designed to deal with danger, but if it is chronic, there comes a point where enough is too much and mind, heart, and body health start eroding with one manifestation or another.

Stress kills, but it also corrodes, killing in a very different sense.

And it also gives those with real or perceived power to resolve the pain a certain advantage over us, for our good–or for their gain.

I came across something that perhaps will enlighten those who live by aphorisms such as: “Don’t take it personally”; “You’re too sensitive”; “I was just joking”; and, given the “philosophy” of a certain political ideology with the goal of keeping the struggle alive, never letting it resolve or settle–a mindset keeping quite a few fires stoked with ever-increasing chaos, these days, while cities burn and people rage even though all around are solutions–“It’s all about the struggle.”

In light of all this, consider the following, an excerpt from Neil Neimark, M.D, author of the “Mastering Stress Series”:

When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our more well thought out beliefs exist—and moves us into “attack” mode. This state of alert causes us to perceive almost everything in our world as a possible threat to our survival. As such, we tend to see everyone and everything as a possible enemy…

We can begin to see how it is almost impossible to cultivate positive attitudes and beliefs when we are stuck in survival mode. Our heart is not open. Our rational mind is disengaged. Our consciousness is focused on fear, not love. Making clear choices and recognizing the consequences of those choices is unfeasible. We are focused on short-term survival, not the long-term consequences of our beliefs and choices. When we are overwhelmed with excessive stress, our life becomes a series of short-term emergencies. We lose the ability to relax and enjoy the moment. We live from crisis to crisis, with no relief in sight. Burnout is inevitable. This burnout is what usually provides the motivation to change our lives for the better. We are propelled to step back and look at the big picture of our lives—forcing us to examine our beliefs, our values and our goals.

The author suggests many ways to deal with this stress prison, so to speak, such as avoiding it, if possible, and if not, what to do in the interim to not only survive but thrive. And there are many other health professionals, preachers, and teachers touching on the same and similar topics that each in its own way points to the ultimate antidote: seeking peace and pursuing it, on all levels, so that productive, creative life can resume…

From yet another stress-reducing series, as it were, I add the following sampler:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (Jesus, in John 16:33, NEV).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Paul, in Philippians 4:6).

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy (Proverbs 12:20).

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these… (Jesus, in Matthew 6:25-34)

And there are innumerable more where these came from.

So what does the peace of Christ do for us when danger looms, real or perceived, circumstantial or engineered? Consider also this:

The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Joy as in absolute joy

Strength, as in defense (4), fortress (4), fortresses (3), helmet (2), protection (2), refuge (3), safety (2), strength (5), strong (1), stronghold (9), strongholds (1).

When we are strong in health spiritually, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically, we walk in God’s love–and plan–for our lives, against which evil cannot thrive.

The answer is all around.

May I encourage you, reader, to seek His peace.

And pursue it.

And begin the healing, strengthening process now.

God knows we need it now more than ever.

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