Peace of Mind
The Gift of peace can be yours, by Headley Beare
… Everyone complains of overload now. So let’s admit that being too busy is a sin, if only because it affronts those who need our attention, it drains our energy, often unproductively, and kills time for reflection and for the inner life of the spirit. People need a guidance formula to work out when they should say, “yes” to an assignment and when to say “no”. For survival, I developed some years ago my own 10-point plan to meet requests for my time. This formula results from long experience in difficult contexts, and has been thoroughly tested over many years. Here it is, but be free to adapt it to your situation. The test of bliss: Joseph Campbell’s research on mythologies found that it is a universal human aim to pursue bliss. Jesus uses the same notion in the Beatitudes, where the Greek makarios is rendered as “blessedness.” “Blithe” and “bliss”, both from the same root, suggest the fullest, deepest joy we can experience, a lively, sprightly joy more enduring than mere happiness. The dictionary describes bliss as the special happiness of heaven, the quality that makes us feel fulfilled and satisfied
So is this activity something I really like doing, deep down? Is it something I really want to do? (If the answer is no, don’t do it!)
The test of vocation: Is this something I am suited to doing that appropriately makes use of my talents, and that is in keeping with my Christian and professional calling? Is the assignment also consistent with my spouse’s or partner’s calling?
The test of uniqueness: Why me? Why have l been asked or approached? Is this something only I can do, for which I have unique competence? Is there someone else equally or better qualified than I am for this task? By accepting, will I prevent someone else from being given an assignment that will help him or her to establish themselves? (If so, why not sponsor that person as your alternative?)
The test of coherence: Since it is so easy for one’s energies to become dissipated, scattered across a plethora of unrelated activities, does this activity harmonise with my current priorities and centres of interest? (If not, say “no”!) I am sceptical about a one-off exercise that has no longer-term pay-offs. So what further things will flow from this assignment? (If none, say “no”.)
The test of networking: Does, or will, this activity keep me in touch with significant people or activities, and will it do the same for my spouse or partner? What are likely to be the long-term people-connections from this assignment?
The test of the strategic: is the audience or the target group for this exercise important enough to warrant the investment of my time and energy? Is the assignment good for me, my family, my partner, and does it enhance my vocation?
The test of the prophetic: Does this activity or assignment give me the opportunity to be prophetic (in the biblical sense)? That is, does it allow me to make a breakthrough, or to develop the field, or to extend not only my own range but also those of my colleagues also? Does the undertaking make me bold?
The test of remuneration: Who is meeting the costs of this assignment, literally? (There is always a cost, as well as a cost to you.) Am I being asked to subsidise someone else’s initiative out of my own resources? And what payment will I receive, both real and metaphorical? Is it enough to warrant my commitment to the exercise? In the end, who will gain and what will be gained by my participation? And are those gains enough to warrant my involvement?
The test of opportunities forgone: Will this assignment prevent me from doing something else more important, or something that I must do, that I am already committed to do, or that I really want to do? Will it get in the way of, affect, or enhance my spouse’s or partner’s commitments? To answer this question, of course, you must walk in imagination through the assignment and make a realistic assessment of what is involved in doing it.
Finally, the “test of peace”: This is an old Quaker dictum, assuming an understanding of that magnificent Jewish concept, shalom, which we loosely translate “peace”. At the primal level, does this assignment leave me feeling easy in my mind? What is my hunch or intuition about this job? If I feel apprehensive, agitated, a bit troubled by it deep down, it’s wise to demur. Essentially, do I feel called to this assignment; does it have a God-feel about it? If it will bring or foster wellbeing, harmony, prosperity, free growth to my soul, happiness and contentment, strength and security, abundance, fulfilment, and ensure that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven (all those meanings are implied in the word shalom), then I have the gift of peace. Don’t leave home without it!
One need hardly add that this review takes time; if I am not accorded that time, the answer is always “no”. The review is best done in silence and alone, at least initially, but you may need to check your answers with a trusted friend. I have found that the assessment is rarely adequate unless the answers are written down, usually in my quiet-time journal.
Because such a review combines inner work and prayer, you don’t have to justify your decision or make excuses. As Jesus advised: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’, ‘No’ “.
Professor Hedley Beare BA, MA, EdD, FACE, FCEL, AM died in 2010. A gifted teacher, he was founding head of the education departments of the Northern Territory and the ACT. He was also an appointed a member of the NT Legislative Assembly and after cyclone Tracy in 1974, was in charge of managing the civilian evacuation, moving 28,000 people in eight days.
Beare was Professor of Education at Melbourne University for fourteen years to 1995, and prolific writer on schools and teaching. A life-long Christian, Beare read widely on church history, and for fifteen years wrote columns for The Melbourne Anglican. And it’s for that role that I am most indebted to him.