Fall of the Peacemaker

March 1, 2006    By: Kristen J @ 7:32 pm   Category: Life

What is your role in your family? Are you the over-achiever? The wild child or black sheep? Maybe you’re the fun one, the nerd, or ultra righteous child. Me, I’m the peacemaker.

When you hear someone say they are a peacemaker it’s usually said with pride and honor. It implies that the peacemaker is above wallowing in the mud with the rest of us. I’m here to tell you that it’s not an easy role to play.

When a sibling says something to me like, “You look so stupid in that jacket” I say, “Really? Wow I didn’t think this jacket was so bad. I guess that I should get rid of it.” Instead of doing a roundhouse kick to their head which is what I really feel like doing. Each time I give up the fight for the sake of peace I feel like I’m selling out.

There is also an issue of deception that I find a little distasteful in the process of making peace. Let me use a conversation as an example of what I mean:

Bertha: I can’t believe that someone would vote for John D. HoofenHafen for mayor. He is such a cheeseball.

Me: Really? Hhmm…(In my head I’m thinking, I kind of like JDH).

Bertha: Yeah, he wants us to be sister-cities with Monkey’s Eyebrow, Georgia!

Me: Oh, I understand. (I’m thinking, Monkey’s Eyebrow doesn’t sound that bad to me).

Bertha: It’s good to talk with you, bye!

Me: Bye!

Bertha now leaves believing that I think Hoofenhafen and Monkey’s Eyebrow is a farce when in reality I don’t have any such feelings toward either one. I was just unwilling to have an argument on those subjects at that time.

As a peacemaker it can be very exhausting going back and forth between two people who aren’t getting along. You go back and forth listening to both sides trying to make them feel like you understand their feelings. It always makes me feel two-faced when I have to do that.

Another huge issue with being a peacemaker is what I’ve heard referred to as the “teapot syndrome”. For instance, someone could say insulting things to me for years and I’ll quietly simmer about it. Eventually it will come to a point where I can’t take it any longer and I explode. It usually goes like this:

Continual insulter: Hey Kristen, you’re out of Kleenex.

Me: How could you say such a horrible thing to me? There’s nothing wrong with being out of Kleenex! I just don’t understand where you come off being so insulting to me all the time. What did I ever do to you?

Continual Insulter then leaves circling their finger around their ear and saying, “Cuckoo! Cuckoo!”

I don’t know, maybe I’m not a Peacemaker. Maybe I’m just a wimp. I’m through with that, now I’m going to be the fun one! Any peacemakers out there who feel like I do? If you’re the fun one, what’s your secret?


  1. You’re asking a bunch of mormon bloggers who the fun one is?

    Comment by Eric — March 1, 2006 @ 8:32 pm

  2. I know! What do you think, do most bloggers fit into the nerdy category? Ha! Ha!

    Comment by Kristen J — March 1, 2006 @ 8:54 pm

  3. I feel like a peacemaker sometimes–although I’m not sure I always am. My parents used to tell me I was one when I was a kid. I’m not complacent, or aggressive so that seems to still put me in that category. Maybe that’s why we get a long so good! Peacemakers unite!

    Comment by Jamie J — March 1, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

  4. I’m sure that’s true. I’m sure that at family gatherings we look like peas in a pod sitting in a corner with our arms folded while observing. I’m glad you’re around, it’s less lonely!

    Comment by Kristen J — March 1, 2006 @ 9:04 pm

  5. I’m the quiet one. Yes, I suppose that could be interpreted as the all-out-wimpy one. I remember a comment in my high school yearbook that said something about being a wall-flower. Gee, thanks.

    RadioBlog: Where’s Give Peace a Chance? :-)

    Comment by meems — March 1, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

  6. Actually meems that is one of the songs I’m thinking about putting up. Geoff has the radioblog software on his computer and he’s at a basketball tourney so he’ll have to put it up when he gets home. I was also thinking about Molly Hatchetts “Fall of the Peacemakers”.

    Did you ever get the “When I first met you I thought you were such a snob because you are so quiet.”?

    Comment by Kristen J — March 1, 2006 @ 9:55 pm

  7. My grandmother used to call me the peacemaker. I used to feel proud of being the peacemaker and in some ways I still am but I also feel bruised. I don’t think non-peacemakers (not to be confused with warmongers) don’t understand how much it takes out of the peacemakers.

    I suffer from “teapot syndrome” too. I wonder if the two are linked?

    Save me a spot in that corner at the family reunion! You fold your arms too. Natch. My mother always tried to make me quit but what are you supposed to do with your hands?? ^_^

    Comment by harpingheather — March 1, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

  8. Kristen: Did you ever get the “When I first met you I thought you were such a snob because you are so quiet.”?

    YES. YES. and YES.

    I found out years after graduating, that a really smart and cute guy in high school wanted to ask me out, but didn’t, because he feared I would just put him down. Hmmph.

    Comment by meems — March 1, 2006 @ 10:15 pm

  9. I definitely think that the peacemaker and teapot syndrome are linked. You can only deal with the crud for so long. Maybe we should just bring some knitting needles to the reunion so we don’t have to fold our arms.

    One of my very best friends thought I was a snob until she heard someone compliment me on my shoes to which I said, “Oh thanks. I got them at payless for $5!” She then thought I was ok.

    Comment by Kristen J — March 1, 2006 @ 11:35 pm

  10. Interesting, I’m always the one willing to blurt out my opinion. This is something that I am constantly working on to subdue.

    I’m changing careers from I.T. management to working towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). I just finished my Bachelors Psyc degree and have applied to BYU’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program.

    As a non traditional student (I’m 50) I have found the classroom environment has really helped me out. I knew I didn’t want to be the old guy who knew everything in class so I really take time to listen to the many very smart younger students and what they have to say.

    The down side to always stating how you feel is that it is very easy to appear arrogant, blunt, opinionated, self righteous… all things that don’t sound or look very good. I don’t think I’ll ever totally change my strong personality. In fact I really just want better balance. To this end I have found some useful ways to moderate it. In learning to do therapy work one of the micro skills I have been taught is to reflect back to the person what they are saying so that they know you have heard and understand them. The reflection should go something like this, “Oh, I see, so what you are saying is …” then restate in your own words what they are trying to say. This reflection statement makes it obvious that you are not necessarily agreeing with them, but that you do understand them. I think this idea will help to take away some of the “two faced” feeling that you may be having, and still let you be a peace maker. I do think however, that when you are asked directly what your opinion is you should state it and if you don’t want to argue if they disagree with you just say, “I understand your point, I can see why you feel that way”.

    If you approach these situations as a learning experience by trying to understand the person without judging them they will feel better because the focus is on them and you will obtain a deeper understanding of your friend and still come from the peace maker perspective. If you are interested you can get more information about all the micro skills that would help in this situation by reading the book, “Intentional Interviewing and Counseling” by Allen E. Ivey and Mary B. Ivey.

    Comment by Matt C — March 2, 2006 @ 6:55 am

  11. Thanks for the information MattC. I like your suggestions I think they would definitely help in some of these situations.

    Comment by Kristen J — March 2, 2006 @ 7:23 am

  12. Kristen, based on your blogging, I would’ve guessed you were the fun one.

    I’m a peacemaker too. I hate being caught in the middle, as well, so it’s a bummer.

    Everything’s relative, though. In my family, I’m weird, because I’m so normal. I’m haven’t been divorced multiple times, my husband hasn’t been in prison, I’m not gay or mentally ill, don’t have illegitimate kids spread around the countryside, etc. (I’m just a Mormon mom into doom metal.)

    Comment by Susan M — March 2, 2006 @ 8:11 am

  13. My former father in law gave me a blessing (he was the stake president) and said I was a peacemaker in the pre-existence. I am convinced that what he was really trying to say was euphemistic for “bossy person who tries to make everybody get along.” Because I don’t bring much peace, I pretty much bring contention. I sure caused a flap at Wal-Mart in the 42 days I worked there.

    Comment by annegb — March 2, 2006 @ 8:12 am

  14. I don’t really feel worthy of being called a peacemaker because I feel like it denotes some sort of virtuous courage and special ability to help people get along. But the label might apply to me because I don’t ever fight with anybody, I get along well with people that most people have a hard time getting along with (mean bosses, crazy relatives, problematic missionary companions), and I do my best to diffuse tense situations with lame humor. But it’s not because of any virtue on my part. It’s that I’m a non-confrontationalist wimp. Like you, Kristen, I’ll keep my disagreements to myself if I feel like it will prevent tense situations. I never never complain at restaurants even when I asked for a medium rare steak and it comes well done and even though here in Baltimore I have had so many incredibly bad customer service experiences (I’m near my threshold, though–don’t be surprised if you hear news of a crazed rampage at a Baltimore Applebees in the next few months).

    In some ways, I’m happy that I’m this way. I’ve been told that I have a personality like water–I can fit in a lot of different situations. And I think I do a good job of avoid making people feel bad about themselves. But at the same time, I would rather be a bit more courageous and confrontational when confrontation is warranted. If I asked for medium rare I should get medium rare, dangit. Or if someone says something totally off base in church, it should be refuted. My need to avoid tension also presents an obstacle that makes it difficult for me to share the Gospel, which is a bad thing. So in some ways, this is definitely a weakness.

    Comment by Tom — March 2, 2006 @ 8:55 am

  15. Susan- you may be normal, but you are definitely unique. I love the qualities you bring to blogging.

    Annegb-Too funny! I think Walmarts everywhere could use a good shaking up.

    Tom- That description of you sounded just like me. I’ve always been called very adaptable. The very few times I have said something about bad customer service I feel terrible and end up feeling like it’s not worth it.

    The only time that I’m very assertive is during my first trimester of pregnancy. If I ever make the news for violent behavior you can just assume it’s because I’m newly pregnant!

    Comment by Kristen J — March 2, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  16. When I was younger, I too was the peacemaker, the quite one. I was shy and avoided all contention. It’s weird though, although I avoided contention like the plague, I got picked on and beat up a lot. It’s funny how that works. I am still that person sometimes. Like Tom, I usually don’t complain about what kind of steak I got even though I ordered something else (on those ever so rare steak occasions.)

    But at other times, with people I know well (like some members of my family), I can be very opinionated and contentious. I wear different hats for the different people I am with.

    I’m with Matt C. as well. If there is a time where I don’t feel like arguing, but don’t want to make it look like I agree with that person, I just nod my head. Here I am in one of your examples.

    Person I don’t want to argue with: I can’t believe that someone would vote for John D. HoofenHafen for mayor. He is such a cheeseball.

    Me: You think so? I hadn’t noticed.
    That’s the non confrontational me. Now the confrontational me.

    Friend or family member: I can’t believe that someone would vote for John D. HoofenHafen for mayor. He is such a cheeseball.

    Me: Not me, I really like him. The way he handled such and such was admirable I think.

    Comment by Ian M. Cook — March 2, 2006 @ 10:03 am

  17. I know what you mean about getting beaten up. I think my family assumes they can take out their frustrations on me because they know I’m not going to fight back or I will be more willing to make up after contention. I seriously hate that.

    Comment by Kristen J — March 2, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  18. In a contentious vein, I’ve noticed that you guys always respond to everyone’s comments, so Kaimi, why didn’t you recognize them, as well, oh mighty one?

    Comment by annegb — March 2, 2006 @ 10:17 am

  19. Ian, I think you described me perfectly. This reminded me when I was hanging out with my mom the other day and the first description is how most of our 2 hour conversation went. She would say something, and I would reply with, “Hmmm, interesting” (or something like that) because if I stated my opinion or either another point of view, it would turn into an argument–which I want to avoid.

    Comment by Jamie J — March 2, 2006 @ 10:22 am

  20. No one ever called me a peacemaker personality. But I don’t look for arguments and I don’t necessarily like them. I do like the motto a sales guru I studied uses: “If you’re gonna fight, fight up front”. In relationships (business or otherwise) this means “lay your cards on the table early so there are no ugly surprises later”. Of course this approach works best with new relationships. It is harder with parents and siblings because your “up front” happened when you were born. But relationships are constantly ebbing and flowing and sometimes old versions of relationships have to be broken down and replaced with new and better versions… Perhaps that is just another way of looking at the Covey-ism “win-win or no deal”. I think the problem some (not all) peacemakers face is that they are willing to accept a lose-win scenario (where the peacemaker loses) too often in the name of avoiding conflict. But lose-win relationships are not sustainable over the long run.

    Maybe seeing things that way is why no one ever called me a peacemaker…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2006 @ 10:51 am

  21. Earlier SusanM said from reading the blog she thought I would be the fun one. I think I try to be funny because if everyone laughs then they can’t fight right? Oh, it’s probably not as neurotic as it sounds but I think there’s something to that.

    Annegb- I haven’t been going to other blogs as much lately so I don’t know what you’re talking about. Do tell!

    Comment by Kristen J — March 2, 2006 @ 10:53 am

  22. Well, there is a difference between being an open ear, a passive listener and being a peacemaker. I’ve a website on the topic at http://adrr.com/ (ok, my website only scratches the surface of it all).

    Nice start on the topic though.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — March 2, 2006 @ 11:54 am

  23. Congrats Geoff and Kristen! Though as I recall from the Ninja thread, weren’t you done with posterity??

    Comment by Chad Too — March 2, 2006 @ 3:54 pm

  24. Hehe. Yup we’re done, Chad. Nothing in the oven. I think Kristen was referring to past pregnancies (unless I’m in for a big surprise too…)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 2, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

  25. Oh, sorry I did mean past pregnancies! My sanity tops out at 4 kids.

    Comment by Kristen J — March 2, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

  26. The bad thing about being this personality type is all the stress you internalize. At least it has been for me–I’m sure my health problems all stem from it.

    I was thinking about how people who’ve dealt with a lot of crap tend to have the best senses of humor.

    Comment by Susan M — March 3, 2006 @ 7:56 am

  27. “make them feel like you understand their feelings. It always makes me feel two-faced when I have to do that.”

    Y’know, you don’t have to feel two-faced. Understanding and agreement are two different emotions. Now, if something in your body language is implying agreement, then you simply need to adjust that habit. Most people when they are upset with someone, just need to feel heard and understood by any ‘innocent bystanders,’ and it’s ok to give them that without signing on lock stock and barrel.

    If you worry about implying allegiances that you do not feel, you can say, very symapthetically, “I totally see how you would/could feel that way. I don’t agree with you, but I do see why you feel so.” Ok so that’s kkind of stilted, but you get the idea.

    Being a peacemaker is good. The world needs peacemakers. I have a streak of that myself. Gowring up with a single dad, my brothers and I noticed (I think I was 14, K was 11, and E was 8 at the time) that we had each taken on specific roles in our family. Mind you, we were kids and had never heard of the supposed psychological ramifications of birth order or any of that. We realized that I was the nurturing one, K was the defender (he would kick anybody’s butt who ave us grief), and E was the entertainer. It’s like we took aspects of what we needed from our mom and had somehow, unspokenly, divided them up amongst ourselves to be sure those needs still got met.

    Just remember, with everybody happy: blondes peacemakers have more fun!

    Comment by Naiah Earhart — March 3, 2006 @ 9:12 am

  28. I think your right Susan, it can’t be good for you to internalize things. I tend to have a lot of anxiety when dealing with stressfull situations. I like humor better than anxiety so I try to use that when ever possible.

    Naiah-I like your point about the body language. I think you’re right about the world needing peacemakers. I’m not sure it’s a role I could give up anyway. I’ve been playing it too long.

    Comment by Kristen J — March 3, 2006 @ 10:52 am

  29. there was a strikethrough tag around blondes…Alas, I shoudl have used “del” instead. Looks like you got my meaning, though. :)

    Comment by Naiah Earhart — March 3, 2006 @ 11:28 am