The essential war
Since primitive times, men have been restless and relentless in waging war against their fellow human beings for reasons beyond the conviction and comprehension of those who only want to live simple, useful and peaceful lives.
History tells us that wars are caused by man’s consuming desire to conquer and control, to covet, and to defend himself. The rewards expected from victory are territory, wealth, power and glory. We all know the mutual losses: untold suffering and destruction of lives and property.
Pythagoras, the Greek sage and mathematician, called on men to make war only with five things: “the maladies of the body, the ignorances of the mind, the passions of the body, the seditions of the city, and the discords of families.”
Concerted and resolute efforts in overcoming these five things will certainly help much in solving society’s perennial problems of poverty, discontent, and rebelliousness.
Looking closely into ourselves, however, we can see that there is another war, an essential war, that we must win for us to be able to attain peace with ourselves, with others, and with God.
Psychologists and psychiatrists agree that man is created as a relational being with inherent goodness and cooperative spirit. Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, author of “The Road Less Traveled,” contends that the knowledge of rightness resides within the mind of all humankind, and that within each and every one of us are two selves, one healthy and one sick — the life urge and the death urge.
In “The Bright Side of Human Nature,” author Alfie Kohn states that there is good evidence to support the proposition that it is as natural for us to help as it is as natural to hurt.
The Bible tells us in The Book of Galatians that we all have an inner enemy — our sinful nature — and that it is the Spirit that produces in the human heart the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — virtues that enable us to do good to others and fulfill our Creator’s unique purposes for our lives.
The inner enemy, on the other hand, pushes us into temptation, deception, self-centeredness or self-condemnation, resulting in brutality, criminality, corruption, fraudulent activities and addiction to vices. Peck points out that our failure to conduct—fully and wholeheartedly — an internal debate between good and evil is the cause of these evil actions that constitute sin.
Thus, we need to examine and know ourselves in waging the essential war within us.
Sun Tzu, the renowned Chinese military strategist and author of “The Art of War,” points out: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
How can that part of us which is good, healthy, bright and progressive win its battles with our bad, sick, dark and regressive self?
Peck’s counsel: “Our good self must always be vigilant against our bad self.”
In the same light, the Bible’s Book of Ephesians tells us to ask God to equip us with His armor of strength, belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit that is the word of God, and stand firmly on the Good News of peace. It prompts us to “pray in the Spirit for our needs and for all God’s people at all times, and to never give up.”
The world will always have wars, trials, and tribulations. But it is in winning the essential war within us, with God’s grace and power, that we can experience real victory with peace—the kind that transcends human understanding.
Prosy Badiola Torrechante is the author of the inspirational book “When Life Begins at Sunset,” which aims to help rekindle hope and inspiration among senior adults and promote mutual respect between the young and the older generations.
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