Marianne Williamson Talks About Inner and Outer Peace

If you’re learning ways to find inner peace, are you really helping create world peace? We asked best-selling author and peace activist Marianne Williamson, whose nonprofit Peace Alliance is working to create a U.S. Department of Peace, what “being peace” looks like.

Q: Do you believe world peace is really possible?

A. I think a fundamental change of heart is possible and necessary. I think we’re nearing the tipping point, actually. Millions on this planet are getting sick and tired of being sick and tired. Even in this country, people are finally waking up to the monstrosity of this war in Iraq — for our own people, and for others as well.

So of course peace is possible; peace is our natural state. Happy, secure people do not wake up in the morning and try to kill other people.

We’ll begin to have fundamental success at creating a peaceful world when we make alleviating unnecessary human suffering our highest priority — when as nations and individuals we are alert to human despair and make ourselves available to help.

I’m not talking about co-dependency, lack of human accountability and all that. I’m talking about the greatest nation in the world seeing 350 million children in the world going to sleep hungry every night, and thousands dying of hunger each day, as totally unacceptable.

What the United States usually calls our “vital national interests” reflects an obsolete, unsustainable worldview. The short-term economic and geo-political interests of a relatively small group are placed before the health and well-being of the majority of human beings on the planet. The people of the world will no longer tolerate that.

With the plethora of weapons of mass destruction on the planet today, if we don’t move the world in the direction of greater peace somehow, a global catastrophe could conceivably occur. So how can anyone find inner peace without doing all they can to help bring greater peace to the outer world as well?

We need to be inner activists and outer activists.

How can each of us be an “inner activist”?

The idea that any individual is supposed to “bring peace to the world” has a grandiose ring to it. But what I’ve experienced is a maturation process of starting to appreciate that all of us are here to help heal the world.

I realized that I myself was not at peace, though probably no more or less than anyone else. My primary responsibility was to find my own inner peace through forgiveness, self-awareness, redemption and atonement ... a constant, never-ending process. From there I would be able to radiate peace to others.

Whoever you’re not forgiving, forgive. Take a brutally honest look at where you harbor hate and judgment — and give it up.

Believe me, I know this is not always easy. But when it’s hard, if I pick up “A Course in Miracles” and read it almost anywhere, I’m given some extraordinary help.

Nothing is a more powerful peace-building force than genuine spiritual practice. Gandhi said that “The end is inherent in the means.” So only as we ourselves release our anger, can we bring peace to the world.

Many people might say, “Oh, but I don’t hate anybody.” Yeah, sure. Look again ...

How can each of us be an “outer activist”?

We spend many billions of dollars on waging war; we spend a tiny fraction of that on waging peace. Every time we help a child, we wage peace. Every time we build a school, we wage peace. Every time we feed the hungry, we wage peace. Food, medicine, education, economic opportunity — these are the building blocks of true peace.

There are simply too many desperate people on this planet. And in many cases, even if their despair was not directly caused by the policies of the United States, it wasn’t addressed by the policies of the United States either. That has become a security risk.

Desperate people strike out in their despair. Desperate people become easily vulnerable to ideological capture by extreme, hate-filled groups — whether it’s inner-city gangs or terrorist organizations. And then we have, as we do now, a very serious problem on our hands.

Do you think world peace will happen in your lifetime?

It’s almost irrelevant whether we will live to see total world peace. Our own lifetime is just a tiny piece of the puzzle. We need to begin to live for the ages.

Susan B. Anthony gave her entire life to the cause of women’s suffrage; she didn’t live to see the passage of the l9th Amendment, but I always feel that whenever an American woman votes, Susan B. Anthony’s soul — wherever it is — must tingle.

Named by “Newsweek” as one of the 50 most influential baby-boomers, Marianne Williamson has written nine books including four #1 "New York Times" best-sellers. For more information visit

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