I’m a firm believer that as humans, many of our feelings and needs are largely universal, and when we lose sight of this, the differences between us become magnified, resulting in conflict, resentment, tension and sometimes emotional or even physical warfare, typically with the people we supposedly care most about.

Of course, in a perfect world, we would have all the tools to help resolve our conflict and ease each other’s pain, but as imperfect and flawed humans, that’s not always the case. When we are hurt, frustrated and feeling misunderstood or judged, we can cycle between attack and withdrawal, even when the cause of the original conflict has long been forgotten. As we seek to defend our position, we practice mindless, habitual yet damaging behaviour, which leaves us wounded, and repeatedly inflames the wounds of our loved ones. Sadly, this dynamic is not a new one, which brings me to a well-known tale from yesteryear.

In 1914, World War 1 had begun, with Germany invading France, and France and Britain attempting to defend themselves. Troops from both sides fought from within their cold, deep trenches across the treacherous barbed-wire infested “no man’s land” that lay between. The flames of war were fanned by government propaganda fuelling hatred, a noble desire to fight for king and country, and a mounting resentment for comrades who had died.

However, 102 years ago, as Christmas Day drew near, reports suggest that the weary, homesick, and injured men contemplated a planned period of peace in honour of Christmas.

They chose to see the commonality in their enemies – men, who just like them, yearned for safety, far-away loved ones, comfort and reprieve from the uncertainty of war and pain of conflict. As Christmas Day approached, troops from both sides of the war made the conscious decision to call a truce, and to cease shooting and fighting. The Germans sang Christmas songs, and the British responded with their own Christmas tunes. Some soldiers played football, traded tobacco and shared laughter regardless of the language barrier between many of them, or the tragic history of bloodshed.

At the Family Peace Foundation, we recognise that families can be embroiled in long-term painful discord and conflict, leaving us feeling wounded, overwhelmed and hopeless. However, ours is a message of hope, with a take-away action that can be implemented today, based on a choice like that made by the courageous soldiers of World War 1. Even when we don’t have the tools, or know how to break the cycle of pain, violence, hurt, or estrangement, we can make a choice to stop the fighting, the demeaning slurs, the controlling and disrespectful patterns that erode marriages, and in turn, change and damage our children forever.

That’s why The Family Peace Foundation is inviting all Australian families to take the Family Peace Foundation’s 8 Day Truce, starting 8pm Christmas Eve. We are hopeful that a taste of peace, safety, harmony and connection will build momentum, and create awareness that there is another way to cope and live where conflict can be managed in more healthy and productive ways. We are hopeful that Australian families around the nation will find ways to see “the enemy” as a loved one who is feeling hurt, sad, rejected, judged, small, fearful, alone or wounded, but also in need of peace, security, joy and connection.

This Christmas eve, we invite you to put down your emotional, physical or psychological weapons and to sing songs, play football and trade statements and expressions of gratitude, love and respect rather than tobacco; and in the process, replace the treachery of “no-man’s land” to become every woman, man and child’s peaceful land.