My friend Julie graciously invited me to write about this subject on her blog about 18 months ago. With a lot of ground covered between then and now, and more of my own religious addictions having been dealt with since then (hopefully), I want to revisit the issue and give a concise explanation of what I mean when I refer to "the Peace Game", which is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of authoritarians in fundamentalist belief systems.
Before we continue...Not everything that happens in your life is "God's will". Your choices matter. You aren't a puppet on a string being manipulated by the great authoritarian in the sky. God gave you free will, and the responsibility to use it wisely. I mention this because "God's will" often comes into play in the course of the Peace Game. The subject of "God's will" is something I'll probably write a bit on in the near future, being it's something that needlessly causes Christians in fungelical land so much stress.
The widespread implementation of the Peace Game within authoritarianism traces largely to the tactics of the Shepherding movement (with its heavy emphasis on the disciplee being in submission to the discipler), although I'm sure it's been around in some fashion as long as religion itself. What makes it such a handy thing for spiritual abusers is its stealthy, sneaky nature - controlling the choices of the people under them without ever directly telling them what to choose.
If you're an underling within the system - whether a QD (or a QS) within P/QF, a child of the Christian homeschooling movement, or just what amounts to a newbie in a Shepherding influenced or type of church (such as Sovereign Grace, IFB, et cetera) - you're expected to "seek counsel" on all of the major stuff (and sometimes the minor stuff) in your life, from jobs, to relationships/marriage, to church or spiritual matters. In this example, person 1 is "in submission" to the "spiritual authority" of person 2...
Person 1: I'd really like to do so and so.
Person 2: Hmmm...I don't really have peace about that. You need to pray about it some more.
Now to most of us, it's clear what's gone on there. Person 2 has clearly told person 1 "No!" But... to a person beaten into submission by fear-based, authoritarian, fundamentalist doctrines, this sets off a hurricane's worth of insecurity, instability, fear, concern, shame, guilt, you name it. It wasn't an outright "no", and surely this person who's supposed to care so much about their spiritual life wouldn't manipulate them (or so they think). So, they "seek the will of God" about it, and pray fervently. The distress caused by person 2's answer is now translated as a lack of peace within person 1's own heart about the issue. Thoughts such as these begin to emerge...
"If this were God's will for my life, person 2 would have peace about it, wouldn't they?"
"Why doesn't person 2 have peace about this? Why don't I have peace about this?"
"There must be something wrong with this? There must be something with me?"
This leads to almost desperate prayer, which often looks like this...
"God, this is obviously not your will for my life. I'm a sinner, and I've sinned. Can you forgive me?"
Person 2 manipulates, successfully, the outcome they wanted all along, having never technically said "no", while person 1 genuinely believes they've heard from God and made their own choice when they've done neither. Person 2 has successfully made "peace" the personal standard for person 1 in determining "God's will", when "God's will" is actually nothing more than their own will, and the only "peace" achieved in the scenario is the weight of needless guilt and turmoil over person 2's initial lack of "peace" being removed from person 1.
Person 2 also reaps the additional benefit of person 1 now being even more unstable, malleable, and reliant on person 2. Each successive time it gets a little easier to manipulate, as person 2 continually fosters instability and discovers more and more of person 1's buttons. "You need to pray about it some more" will from now on mean "You haven't heard from God until you agree with me" to person 1's conscience, and person 1 is completely oblivious to it.
This is a basic breakdown of the Peace Game. It has lots of little ins and outs that I haven't even touched in this post, but it typically follows a pattern similar to the one above. A lot of you have probably been on the receiving end of it. My ex certainly was. Her disappearance was the result of her need to "hear from God about us", when in actuality it was a reindoctrination session and her opportunity to arrive at the same conclusions as the people poisoning her. Once she'd done this, they lifted the pressure of instability, insecurity, uncertainty, and backhanded condemnation they'd been applying, and presto - she'd "heard from God" about our relationship, aka, "found peace".
Decisions shouldn't be made from "peace" any more than God's will can be determined by "peace". Decisions should be made based upon right or wrong - even if the right decision causes you a world of distress or hurt, which it often will.
Few things of true merit and value come easily or peacefully. Those of you who've found your freedom can certainly attest to this.