We’re now approaching the inauguration of a new president. One side won; the other lost, as happens every four years for a presidential election, and in countless other ways throughout all of our lives, some momentous, some trivial. The real focus now should be on what will happen next. How will we respond to recent events, including the storming of the U.S. Capitol?
Will we respond with vengeance or forgiveness? Contempt or respect? Division or unity?
When people have competing interests, how do they work things out? Do we let anger rule the day, or do we use our heads and stay calm? Do we force our way through to get what we want through sheer power? Or do we seek to compromise? Giving a little and getting a little? Talking a little and listening a whole lot more?
There’s always much we can learn from literature and art. In C. S. Lewis’s children’s novel The Horse and His Boy, there’s a scene when a defeated foe, Prince Rabadash, is brought before a council in chains. He’s given every opportunity to apologize and repent for his misdeed of attacking a peaceful country, Archenland, without any preceding diplomacy or forewarning, which he refuses to do. At one point, the child Prince Corin of Archenland makes a remark that makes fun of Rabadash, and his father, King Lune, says, “Shame, Corin … Never taunt a man save when he is stronger than you: then, as you please.”
Another example comes from the movie Invictus, in which Nelson Mandela, as president of South Africa, is trying to restore unity after decades of the evils of apartheid. He says, “This is no time to celebrate petty revenge. This is the time to build our nation using every single brick available to us.”
It’s not really necessary to expand on these thoughts; they speak for themselves. Here is some additional wisdom from others as we face this uncertain time:
- If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better. — Lyndon Johnson
- Furious activity is no substitute for understanding. — H.H. Williams
- To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to. — Kahlil Gibran
- Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving. — Dale Carnegie
- Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. — Carl Jung
- Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means, through dialogue, education, knowledge, and through humane ways. — Dalai Lama XIV
- If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. — Desmond Tutu
- If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. — Nelson Mandela
Finally, in remembrance of one of the greatest peacemakers of our time, here is something he said that we should all take to heart:
Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method that rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. — The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lewis, C. S. (2013). The Chronicles of Narnia Complete 7-Book Collection (Kindle Edition). HarperCollins.
MovieQuotes.com. (n.d.). “Invictus” Quotes (2009). https://www.moviequotes.com/s-movie/invictus/