Spirit Matters: What kind of peace do we really long for?

Globally, the world is not at peace.

Currently, conflicts continue to escalate even beyond persuading those who are causing chaos to pursue peace based on tenets of simple, human decency.

Regardless of your faith or spiritual tradition, or lack thereof, there is something deep inside us that knows it is not alright to kill another human being.

And yet we do it — all of us do it — every single day.

We all “kill” other human beings on a regular basis.

Most of us don’t kill on a literal level. We don’t go around physically taking the life of other humans. In fact, when we hear of yet another mass shooting, we grieve to the very essence of our beings — insofar as we have not become desensitized to these evil acts that happen far too often.

But we all kill with our tongues, (and with our keyboards!) through slander, gossip, and other forms of hate without even realizing it. And that type of killing can be just as destructive as physically taking a life, for killing with the tongue can and sometimes does destroy a human’s life for the rest of their earthly existence. (The Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation trial, is a clear, current reminder of this.)

The world has never been at peace. There have been times of relative peace, but never complete peace, the kind of peace each of us longs for deep in our souls.

Merriam-Webster defines “peace” in multiple ways:

  • a state of tranquility or quiet: such as a. freedom from civil disturbance b. a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom a breach of the peace 2. freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions 3. harmony in personal relations 4a. a state or period of mutual concord between governments b. a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity 5. used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

All of these definitions are obviously admirable, and something for which we should not only yearn, but also work.

When I use the word “peace,” I am referring to the concept of shalom, a Hebrew word. Merriam-Webster defines “shalom” as follows:

used as a Jewish greeting and farewell

But when someone wishes you “shalom,” they are not simply saying hello or goodbye.

Wikipedia defines “shalom” as follows:

Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.

Similar to the concept of “heart” in the Judeo-Christian traditions referring to the totality of one’s being, “shalom” refers to a complete and perfect peace, not only for each of us, but for the entire world.

Shalom, to me, is the quintessential definition of “peace.”

It is what Jesus meant when he told his followers “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

When we experience “shalom” on an individual level, we are naturally able to share perfect peace in our circle of existence, and influence others to seek it as well.

The hope, and the goal then, becomes to effect a grassroots transformation of the world, one sentient being at a time.

This hearkens back to the hymn, a favorite of many, which begins: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be.”

I wish you peace.

I wish all of us peace.

Shalom, my friends.


  • SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.