Be the First to Give Way in a Squabble

I don’t always read the Meditation of the Day contained in Magnificat, but last night I happened to notice yesterday’s meditation, which came form the Jerusalem Community Rule of Life. (As described on their website, the Jerusalem Community consistes of “two religious institutes of brothers and sisters whose vocation it is to provide an oasis of prayer, silence and peace in the ‘desert’ of modern cities.”)

What drew my attention in the excerpt from the rule of life was this:

You should be intelligent and holy enough to be the first to give way in a quarrel; and never let squabbles over trifles harm your deep union with your brothers. You may be in the right but your duty is not to let the sun go down on your anger.

When I read those lines, what came immediately came to mind was a similar expression by Shantideva, an eighth century Buddhist philosopher. In his Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, which I first read some years ago, Shantideva writes: “When, out of envy, others mistreat me with abuse, insults or the like, I shall accept defeat and offer the victory to others.”

The wisdom of the advice seems sound to me. What matters most, especially in community, is restoring harmony, allowing love to flow. What matters is to not allowing “squabbles over trifles harm [our] deep union” with each other.

Sound as it is, the advice is not all that easy to follow. I don’t find it particularly difficult to acknowledge my mistakes or to apologize when I believe I’ve acted badly. But “giving way” when I think I’m in the right, “offer[ing] the victory” to one I feel has mistreated me – that’s a challenge.

And so I pray for the grace to give way more easily…to be willing to accept the defeat and offer victory to others, even when I feel I am in the right.

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