Peacemaker or Peacekeeper? And WW Linkup

PeacemakerSince my post last week encouraged the extending of grace to our mates, I felt it was important to explain the difference between giving grace (peacemaking) and enabling unhealthy behavior (peacekeeping). After all …

[Tweet ” Enabling and extending grace are two very different things that often get mistaken for each other.”]

I’ve provided a series of questions below that can function as a trouble-shooting guide—along with prayer—to help you distinguish between enabling your spouse and extending grace.

Enabling or Peacekeeping:

  1. Are you more concerned about keeping the peace and not angering your mate than addressing issues related to your spouse’s emotional, relational, physical or spiritual well-being?
  2. Are you fearful that your spouse will not be able to handle a particular situation as well as you do, so you reason that you must continue to carry that burden for him/her?
  3. Have you avoided communicating certain desires or boundaries to your mate, because you like the safety that relying only on yourself provides?
  4. Have you avoided communicating certain desires or boundaries to your mate, because you fear you won’t be needed if you stop doing for your mate?
  5. Do most of the boundaries you’ve communicated to your spouse appear more like idle threats, because you rarely if ever follow through?
  6. Do you minimize and rationalize the negative impact of your spouse’s negative behavior, simply because it “feels” or “sounds” unloving?
  7. Do you feel and act as if you are superior to, or more intelligent than, your spouse and therefore should control or have the last say on what your spouse does/thinks?
  8. Do you feel and act as if you are more mature than your mate and therefore should take care of him/her?
  9. Do you feel that you don’t have the right to address a certain issue in your relationship?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you are probably “enabling” your mate in some way.

Most of the time when we enable our mates, we are concerned more with our own personal safety than our mate’s growth or the health of our marriage.

[Tweet “Extending grace involves a self-sacrificing focus on what helps our mate and our marriage.”]

It may seem like an oxymoron, but we can extend grace every time we interact with our mates, even when we are setting a boundary or identifying a problem.

Extending grace or “peacemaking” looks like:

  1. Giving your mate the benefit of the doubt when he/she does something hurtful on occasion. If your spouse develops an offending and ongoing pattern, then the gracious thing to do would be to follow-up with number two below.
  2. Asking respectfully to have a heart-to-heart with your mate about a problem in your marriage, and then really maintaining a giving and receptive spirit throughout the conversation. You should focus on listening to understand, rather than speaking to be understood.
  3. Forgiving your mate continually for continuing to sin against you. This does not mean you never address an issue. Forgiveness simply is the way to keep your heart open and tender toward your offending mate. I believe that only Christ can truly give you this ability over and over again (see Col. 3:12-17, Heb. 12:14-15, James 3:17).

Each of these expressions of grace involve dying to ourselves—not protecting ourselves. When we truly extend grace to our mates we are doing it out of the grace God has shown to us—trusting “God” to protect our hearts. If your spouse is abusive, then the gracious thing to do is to deal with the abuse with the support of a counselor, pastor or team of pastors/counselors.


Which of the enabling patterns listed above are hardest for you to stop?


Which of the expressions of grace listed above do you want to focus on more in the days ahead?


In case you’re interested in viewing some amazing photos of my son, Jordan and my new daughter in law, Sarah’s honeymoon, then you can view part 1 here and part 2 here. They traveled to Seattle, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia. 🙂

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39 responses to “Peacemaker or Peacekeeper? And WW Linkup”

  1. terri presser Avatar

    Thank you for hosting. Have a great week. Blessings


    1. You’re welcome, Terri! Thanks for linking up, my friend!


  2. Ah, this is a topic that God has brought to light for me over the last year or so. I used to be a peacekeeper… now I understand the difference and muster my courage to MAKE peace instead of keep it. Great points, my friend!


    1. It is a tough path, for sure, Becky! I am not always great at it, especially when it comes to my sons. I like to make things easier on them, which really translates into “easier for me”–though I’m picking up their slack. But I keep reminding myself that I can’t protect my boys from pain–not really. And if I temporarily do, then I am weakening their ability to handle pain the future. So much is hanging in the balance! Thanks for your encouragement, dear friend!


  3. Thanks again for hosting! The concept of we offer grace even as we set boundaries has just “blown my mind”! Just finished the book “Boundaries in Marriage” and trying to incorporate the lessons… This was so very relevant to me today 🙂


    1. I love Boundaries in Marriage, Pat! It’s one of my all-time favorite books. And yes, that’s part of the dilemma. We mistakenly feel like setting boundaries must be done in a harsh and sometimes even disrespectful way. And nothing could be further from the truth. Besides, keeping the tension between graciousness and truth always yields a better result for all involved! Thanks for adding to the conversation, my friend!


  4. bluecottonmemory Avatar

    I learned growing up if I didn’t stand up for certain things, a worse situation would be created. I think the most important thing I’ve learned beyond that – is that in my marriage, the amazing trust and support that is there – and I have learned I don’t have to “fight” – to be me, to have dreams that not everyone agrees with. I don’t have to be scared that anger means love taken away. In over 32 years of marriage, I have been extended so much grace – I liken myself to a barn cat that has become domesticated – if that visual makes sense.


    1. Yes, that’s true, Maryleigh. We do create bigger messes that take a bit longer to catch up with us, so we delude ourselves into thinking that enabling worked–since it avoided an uncomfortable moment. I’m so glad you have a husband who respects who you are and how you feel. That makes it soooo much easier to do all that I’ve mentioned above. But sometimes it takes avoiding enabling and pursuing extending grace to turn a negative and resistant spouse around. Love your “cat” metaphor. I’m so glad you’ve learned the fine art of graciousness! Hugs to you, sweet friend!


  5. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Good post, but I do have a caveat (in which I freely admit that I may be totally wrong!).

    The distinction between peacemaking and peacekeeping may be more blurred, both situationally and in the general context of the marriage, than one might suppose, or wish.

    For instance, situational peacekeeping may be needed when a spouse is going through a longer-than-expected grieving period for a dead parent. You simply can’t say “get over it”, and counseling may not always be effective. aced with something like this, it may be best to simply ride it out, accepting things one would prefer not to accept, because the alternative may result in more and deeper damage.

    There would also seem to be cases in which peacekeeping in needed as a general paradigm, to make the marriage work. Some adults never really get past the narcissism of childhood, and confronting a careless attitude toward ‘couplehood’ just never achieves anything, beyond causing more alienation. Perhaps, in this context, the marriage was a mistake…but you can’t divorce someone for being immature, and you can;t make them grow up.

    We all want healthy, strong marriages, but a ‘walking wounded’ union may, with care, understanding, love, and yes, sacrificial peacekeeping, may come to be valued at the end of life as a rare gem, as much for the companionship that WAS there as for the challenges that were overcome to turn the awful into something that became OK.

    What do you think? Off my rocker here, or what?


    1. I would say that saying, “get over it” is the opposite of extending grace. But I do agree that there are situations where speaking the truth (in love and grace) is not always appropriate or advisable for a time. And counseling is not always the best option, particularly if you don’t find a good counselor or your “offending” spouse (which is all of us) is not open to the counseling or at a place to receive the counseling. These are instances where some of these principles I’ve talked about today would need to be adjusted and evaluated, for sure.

      I also see that your second reason for not pursuing peacemaking, but rather peacekeeping seems a bit short-sighted. It would be in those cases that I would think support through a counselor or skilled pastor would be necessary to at least give support to the one who is being hurt by the narcissistic spouse. And I’m definitely not saying that addressing issues in marriage is about “getting our way” or changing the other person. We cannot change the other person, but that doesn’t mean we don’t address issues with both grace and truth.

      I’m also not saying that any of this is simple or easy. It is very hard, for the couple who is entrenched in these stubborn patterns of codependency. And it seems to me that you are saying of “peacekeeping” what I am saying, at least in part, of peacemaking under number 1 and 3 of the extending grace list. Of course, there are points when we should consider addressing the issues. But that should not be the place to start as much as a place to eventually get to. That’s why my emphasis last week was on extending grace alone. It’s a hard, but necessary practice that I am learning and hope to encourage in others marriages as well.

      No, you are not off your rocker, Andrew. But I do think you tend to pick at my posts, my friend. Don’t really know why. But I love you anyway. I think you’re like a raspberry bush–full of thorns, but if you look deeply enough you have the sweetest fruit on the vine!


      1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

        Good points – and I guess I have been guilty of picking at your posts, and for that I am deeply, and profoundly sorry. I do ask your pardon.


      2. Like I said, I love you anyway! I know you have a lot of pain in your life and I think the intellectual sparing takes your mind off your pain for just a bit! But thanks for apologizing, Andrew! See! There’s that sweet berry I was talking about! 😉


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  7. Now this is enlightening. Peacemaker, peacekeeper. You got me thinking.


    1. Thanks for saying, Lux! I hope you’ll keep coming back and “thinking” as you leave, my friend!


  8. What a fantastic post. As a recovering people pleaser, it was a great reminder. Thanks for hosting the linkup!


    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Eva. It’s greatly appreciated, my new friend. Glad to have you in the linkup!


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  10. You certainly know how to get me thinking. Your list describing enabling or peacekeeping really hit home. Since I do not like confrontations, there are several points that pertain to me. As hard as it is to admit I am not perfect, I love learning from you and tucking away this information for the future. I know you have worked hard yourself over the years and you speak from a place of reality and determination as you put into practice what you learned yourself.

    Thank you as always and hope your week is wonderful! Love and hugs!


    1. Yes, Mary, even though I know this stuff, it doesn’t mean I don’t dip into the “enabling behaviors and mindset” either. I have struggled mostly with my boys–trying to make life easier for them because it hurts me to see them struggle. But even in that statement it shows where my priorities are–“it hurts me.” It’s hard to let go and trust God to teach my sons through the “school of hard knocks.” But that’s where I have studied–probably getting some kind of “degree” of sorts. Lol! Thank you for your kind words and friendship, sweet Mary! I always love seeing you in the comments.


  11. Mary Flaherty Avatar

    Oh, Beth, this is SO good! And I’m glad that you followed up with the Peacemaking list! I admit that before I read either list, I said to myself, “Oh, I’m a peacemaker for sure. I’m no longer codependent!” HA! I related to more on that first list than I’d like, or even than I thought! I think that my biggest problem is that I don’t like hurting my husband with my words or actions because I can’t stand to see him wounded…and then he withdraws. I’m such an in your face person, that I get annoyed when he does that, and then whatever the issue was that hurt ME…somehow it turns around and becomes about HIM. We’ve all got work to do, I suppose. This was a great post!


    1. It’s a rather “in-your-face” kind of reminder when you ask yourself those questions, Mary. That’s why I like to do that–not just for my readers but also for myself. I need that reality check because as I’ve mentioned in the comments below, I’m trying ever so much to change my enabling ways with my sons. That’s where I really struggle, but I think it also began in the early days with my husband too. And I get your hesitation to hurt your husband. But I always remind myself of Cloud and Townsend’s sentiment in their classic, Boundaries book – it is better to hurt our offender by setting boundaries or having that difficult conversation than to harm them with our anger or the resulting relationship break-down. I have injected quite a bit of my own interpretation into their thoughts above, but that’s the gist of what they are saying. I see it that way most of the time. Here’s to being “works in progress!”


  12. Dear Beth

    I am 1 and 3 for both! (Does that mean anything?)

    I am certainly “more concerned about keeping the peace and not angering [my] mate” than … anything else I can think of actually. And my wife gets little more than the “public” version of me (and not even the Big City public version, it’s the Small Country Town version I work with these days).

    Over the last few months (since I’ve been reading your blog maybe? Coincidence) I’ve felt more often inspired to give my wife the benefit of the doubt, to forgive her manner, to think more about her troubles and how I can, not “help” but create a nicer environment for her here.

    To use your phrase, I want to make my heart open and tender toward my wife.

    Thank you



    1. I think that means that you have a tendency to enable negative things to continue in your relationship, David. But then, I’m guilty of that too! I can see that independent side of you from the things you’ve told me and I have struggled with that a lot in my past as well. In fact, it is still a slight struggle for me, but with the Lord’s love and grace, I find the courage to forge ahead into the intimacy this kind of shift demands.

      I’m so very glad that you are encouraged to extend grace to your wife because of your time of reading here. That’s such a blessing to me to hear! I do hope you’ll keep turning to the Lord for the strength to be yourself and more open and forthcoming with your wife. I think you’ll find that she loves you all the more for being vulnerable and real. Here’s to you and I both working toward developing that open and tender heart with our mates. Thanks so much for stopping in and encouraging me!


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  14. I appreciate the distinction between peacemaker and peacekeeper – your explanation makes sense. I have been a people-pleaser for so long – it is a very difficult chain to break free from. When I reflected on your questions above, I wasn’t thinking about my husband, but others in my life.
    Thanks Beth – your post here encourages those of us who people-pleasers to not be enablers.


    1. Yes, I know what you mean, Aimee. It’s hard to change those old thought patterns, especially once the people in our lives grow accustomed to them. As humans, we like the familiar and change often makes us bristle–even if it is a healthy change. I’m like that too. I’ve been able to overcome much of the enabling in my marriage, but still struggle with my sons or with friends. Thanks for joining the conversation, Aimee!


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  16. Oh Beth, how I need to deal with No. 3. God help me. Thanks for bringing this up and sharing with us.
    I must word on being a peacemaker instead of peace keeper!


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