civil war


According to Google, a civil war is a war between political factions or regions within the same country or region.  But if we are honest, we all know this war happens not only between geographical regions but also between us and our relationships with others and within our own self and body.

I hear it in almost everyone I sit with (including myself): “A part of me wants [fill in the blank],  but another part doesn’t want that.”  Or, “A part of me wants to take control/protect myself/leave the room/demand someone to be different/ speak up/not care, but still another part of me wants to hear and understand /wants relationship/feels insecure that I did it wrong or did too much.”

Here’s another way I heard it recently: “I want to speak and have a voice, but then I feel like I said too much and overstepped.  But if I don’t speak, I’m afraid of being too passive or weak.  No matter what I do, I feel this conflict and insecurity.  If I speak up, I fear I did it wrong and if I don’t speak, that feels wrong, too.  I won’t have peace no matter what I do.”

Do you hear the war within?

In any war, the only way to real peace is by listening for what the other is fighting for (peacekeepers keep the sides from destroying each other, while peacemakers bring them together).  Do we ever create enough safe space to hear what our insecurities are afraid of?  Are we ever curious as to what our body is asking for when it shuts down, wants to leave, or rages up?  Do we honor both sides and maintain dignity?

Pope Francis is quoted saying, “In the Church there is room for everyone! Room for everyone!” meaning that no one is useless or superfluous; there is indeed room for everyone just as we are, all of us. “Go and bring everyone, young and old, healthy and sick, righteous and sinners: everyone, everyone, everyone.”  I would also add the scared and angry and the insecure.  All are welcome.

So, does that mean that Jesus welcomes all parts of us?  Even the parts that are battling the civil war within?  What does it mean to welcome both the voices that fight inside?  What does it mean for the Great Peacemaker to listen to both sides of the inner battle?  To honor our inner division in a way that actually brings us peace?  Usually, we don’t listen to our self-tension with that much compassion.  More often we hate one side because it “shouldn’t” be speaking.  (Side note: listen for when you “should” yourself.  That is a good indication that there is an inner battle that needs compassionate tending.)

Those words—compassion, honor, listen— all sound good, but how do we do those things?  Our posture matters.  Notice the difference between these two scenes:  Police officer shines a mag light in your eyes while forcefully demanding, “What are you doing here?!”  vs. a friend noticing you and curiously saying, “Hmm, I see you. What are you doing here?”  A calm voice in turn calms our insides in a way so we can more fully answer the question.  When we, or any part of us, feel threatened, we never give good answers.

From the earlier example about speaking out or not speaking at all, can we ask about what each side is afraid of? What each part hopes for or wants to see happen if we choose to do either one of those things?  We know that no matter what, one side of the inner battle will suffer.  How do we choose which side suffers?  There is a humility and tenderness when we walk with this compassionate knowledge of suffering.  If one side of us chooses to bear the discomfort and uncertainty for the sake of the other, then we can have a less intense war.

We know for there to be peace, one part of us will have to suffer and grieve.  Grief says that what we desire matters, but without the demand to be satisfied.  Grief keeps us tenderhearted and human.  To be fully human, both sides grieve.  We know that being loving is being the best of us.  I think 1 Corinthians 13 says something about that.   The warring in our relationships and within ourselves is only brought to peace when there is a posture of tenderness and sorrow toward both warring parties.  As Pope Francis says, “there is room for everyone!”




Kurt Zuiderveen joined The Barnabas Center in 2008. Kurt earned his bachelor’s from Grand Valley State in Michigan and his master’s in counseling in 2004 from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He is married to April and they have three children.

Kurt divides his time between our main office in Charlotte and our office in Davidson.




You might also enjoy:

Share this:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *