How Can We Enjoy Peaceful Relations with Others?
ONE of the biggest problems people face today is how to get along with others in peace. Yet few things have so much to do with our daily enjoyment of life. Where can we find the key to solve this problem? In the churches? Why, then, do we read of growing dissension in the churches, even open fighting between religions, as in Ireland now?
What, then, about the Bible? You may say, “But don’t most churches claim to represent the Bible’s teachings?” True, but could it be that they have failed to do this? That must be the case, for the Bible clearly teaches peaceful living. More than that, it offers us the wisdom we need to enjoy pleasant relations with others.—Prov. 3:13, 17.
How does it do that? Just by saying, “Be peaceful”? No. Instead, it reveals what the real obstacles to peaceful living are and how to overcome them.
To begin with, it shows us that it is not enough just to want to live free from strife. We have to work at enjoying peace with others. As the psalmist put it: “Who is the man that is delighting in life, that is loving enough days to see what is good? Safeguard your tongue against what is bad, and your lips against speaking deception. . . . seek to find peace, and pursue it.”—Ps. 34:12-14.
From your own experience, would you not put ‘unrestrained tongues and lips’ near the top of the list of peace wreckers? Many persons profess some religion. But what does their claim to worship God mean if their tongue is not truthful, if it cuts and lashes at others, or spreads remarks that damage others’ reputations? No wonder the disciple James wrote: “If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile.”—Jas. 1:26.
SELF-RESTRAINT A SIGN OF STRENGTH
A problem here is that many look on the course of refusing to trade insult for insult as a sign of weakness. The Bible shows that the truth is just the opposite. At Proverbs 16:32 we read: “He that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and he that is controlling his spirit than the one capturing a city.”
Yes, a person may outwardly appear powerful but inside be a moral weakling. Moral strength is far harder to come by than any other kind of power. Many, lacking strength to control their feelings, fit the description at Proverbs 25:28: “As a city broken through, without a wall, is the man that has no restraint for his spirit.” They are vulnerable to every passing provocation.
Really, which makes more sense: to “let off steam” now and then to relieve inner pressure or to cool down the fire that is building up the steam? Why not work on the source of the problem? More often than not we find that the real problem is our pride, selfishness, shortsightedness or ignorance of the best way to solve personal problems. These produce hasty, excited words and acts. By contrast the Bible, at Ecclesiastes 7:8, 9, says:
“Better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning. Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit. Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.”
No one, of course, likes being the object of slighting remarks or actions. But is it worth it to let these cause us to erupt in violence? Men have become crippled or have crippled others, even lost their lives or caused others to lose theirs, because of the hastiness spawned by haughtiness and pride. They may ruin their lives to avenge a few words—words possibly not intended to offend in the first place. Is this not “stupidity”?
The Bible’s counsel aids us to see and weigh the consequences before we act—rather than to have to learn them by painful experience later. It helps us to build up the inner strength we need to succeed in ‘seeking peace and pursuing it.’ One way it does that is by helping us to make a right estimate of things—recognizing what the really big things in life are and what things merit only minor importance.
For example, many today go ‘all out’ to gain as many luxuries as they can. But often they rob their mate or children of the attention they need. Then friction and quarrels fill the home. Do you value luxuries—rich food, for instance—more than love and peace in your home? The Bible counsels: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull [with its filet mignon and T-bone steaks] and hatred along with it.” “Better is a dry piece of bread with which there is quietness than a house full of the sacrifices of quarreling.”—Prov. 15:17; 17:1.
Some persons quickly gain our respect by the fine qualities they demonstrate. What about strangers, or some persons we know but whose qualities we do not find admirable? What will help us to maintain peaceful relations with these? This is not always easy to do. But here again the Bible comes to our aid. It shows us that we owe such ones fundamental respect as fellow members of the human family.
Thousands of years before modern scientists reached the conclusion that “all the peoples of the earth are a single family and have a common origin” (The Races of Mankind, 1951, pages 3, 4), the Bible contained that fact. (Gen. 1:26, 27; 3:20) And by showing that God “made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth,” and that “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him,” the Bible knocks down any reason for pride or prejudice based on race or nationality.—Acts 17:26; 10:34, 35.
More than respect is needed, however. We need to be motivated by love for our neighbor as for ourselves. (Matt. 22:39) As far back as King Solomon’s time people were saying: “Just as he did to me, so I am going to do to him. I shall repay to each one according to his acting.” (Prov. 24:29) Many still follow the same selfish rule today. Others follow the rule given by Chinese sage Confucius: “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” But even this is based on a negative principle. How superior is the positive principle stated by Jesus: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—Luke 6:31.
Yes, this positive principle shows that the way to ‘seek peace’ is not just by holding back from doing harmful things but by doing helpful things for others, things we ourselves would appreciate having done for us. A smile, a friendly greeting, expressions of courtesy as simple as opening a door for another, or expressions of gratitude for courtesies shown—these and hundreds of other acts of human kindness can make a tremendous difference in our relations with others. Putting this principle to work in small ways prepares us for those times when doing so calls for greater effort and sacrifice.
Some may say: “Putting up with minor or occasional provocations or irritations is not so hard. But what about situations where pressure is severe and prolonged?” In such circumstances many drop the pursuit of peace and give in to bitterness or resort to acts designed to do harm.
Then it is a question of either trusting in human ability to gain relief or trusting in God to do so. It takes real faith to apply the words: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’ . . . Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Rom. 12:19-21.
Do you have such faith in God as the supreme Judge and in his declared purpose to establish justice in all the earth? Do you believe the Bible’s promise of a righteous government headed by God’s own Son, a Kingdom rule that will bring lasting peace? Only by gaining knowledge of the Bible’s teachings and then applying them in your daily life, proving to yourself their trueness and practicality, can you have such faith.
Would you appreciate help in doing this? Write the publishers of this magazine for a free Bible discussion in your home with a qualified minister of Jehovah’s witnesses. Learn how true the words are: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.”—Ps. 119:165.
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The Bible reveals what the obstacles to peaceful living are and how to overcome them