Chapter 3 – A peaceful Disposition
III A Peaceful Disposition (click to download)
How true are the following words of Thomas a Kempis: “Some there are who keep themselves in peace, and have peace also with others; and there are some who neither have peace themselves, nor leave others in peace; they are troublesome to others, and still more troublesome to themselves.”
Just such a one was Fridolin, the hired man of a certain farmer. He had a very quick temper; at everything that did not go just as he wished, he would fly into a passion. Then you should have seen and heard him—how he fumed, and stamped, and scolded; how he quarreled with his fellow-servants, and called them names. He was, therefore, a man very hard to get along with. People were glad not to have much to do with him.
His master often corrected him for it, and admonished him: “Fridolin, you must try to become master of yourself. You should not let it go on this way. You are very passionate; and you thereby commit many sins. The longer you let it go, the harder it will be for you to tear out this evil passion of anger. You know anger is a very disagreeable passion, besides. It never leaves you any rest; and it ever gets you into trouble with others.”
Fridolin’s answer generally was: “How am I to help it? If they provoke me, or something does not go right, I must get angry. It is just impossible for me to keep cool and quiet.”
One morning the farmer showed Fridolin a new silver dollar.
“Look here,” said he, “if you are man enough to keep down you anger today, so that you won’t say an angry word, nor do anything in anger, I will give you this dollar extra besides your wages. Try it. I am pretty sure you won’t will.”
I’m pretty sure I will win,” thought Fridolin. And so he did. The other servants made out among themselves that they would tease him all day long, and trouble and plague him as much as possible, to see whether they could not get him angry, so that he would say at least an angry word. Their efforts were in vain. Fridolin mastered himself; he was bound to win the dollar.
When evening came, and the work was done, the farmer gave Fridolin the money, and at the same time he said: “Don’t you think you ought to feel ashamed of yourself? For the sake of such a miserable bit of money, and to win it, you can keep down you anger, in spite of all that others may do to rouse you into a passion. But for the love of God, and the sake of your soul, you cannot overcome you angry passions.”
Fridolin felt that this was true, and was heartily ashamed of himself. He went to work in earnest; so it was not many years before he had become an example of kindness and meekness.
Let us not forget: If sometimes, or often, we get into trouble with our neighbours, if we quarrel with them, and say bitter, harsh words, that make them as well as ourselves feel very unhappy, then we must blame no one but ourselves. It is the “I”—first personal pronoun, nominative case,–that likes to get us into such trouble once in a while.
To acquire a peaceful disposition you must begin on yourself—begin to train the selfish all-important “I.” Jesus says with beautiful meaning. “Have salt in you, and have peace among you.”
Put a pinch of salt in your mouth: it does not taste pleasant at all. But put it in what you are cooking, and getting ready to eat: the salt makes it taste very good. So also in a spiritual sense. Mortify yourself, humble your pride, overcome your anger, govern your tongue, guard your actions, etc. This, you feel, is not pleasant—it is the salt of self-mortification. But just keep on; in the same degree that you make progress in this mastering of yourself, in that same degree will you spread joy, and peace, and happiness amongst others.
First, endeavor always to live in peace with God. “Much peace have they who love Thy law,” says the Psalmist, “and to them there is no stumbling-block.”
Secondly, try to get peace in your own heart. Do as The Following of Christ says: “Have a zeal in the first place over thyself, and then mayest thou also justly exercise zeal toward thy neighbour.”
Thirdly, along with this, you must try to live in peace with your neighbours. “Cast first the beam out of thine own eye,” and “A mild answer breaketh wrath; “if you practise these two things you will do a great deal towards keeping up peace amongst your neighbours.
Another word from Thomas a Kempis to conclude with: “He who best knows how to endure will possess the greater peace. Such a one is a conqueror of himself, and lord of the world, the friend of Christ, and an heir of heaven.”