IN OBSERVANCE of the Holy Week, we choose to once more listen to excerpts of one of the sermons of Fr. Joseph A. Galdon, S.J. The priest says he likes the Epistle of St. James whom he claims to be always practical and down to earth and more interested in moral living. In the fourth chapter of his epistle, James talks about why we fight with one another, which topic becomes even more relevant up to this day.
Fr. Galdon begins his sermon by asking, “Why do we fight?” Why are there quarrels in the family and among friends? Between brothers and sisters, husbands and wives? There are several reasons, James says, for all the fighting in our lives.
First, he says, we fight because we want something, and when we don’t get what we want, we get mad and fight. Two children want the same toy. Since they both can’t have it, they fight over the toy. Adults are like that, too. We fight over who’s going to use the car, or what TV program we are going to watch.
Second, St. James says, we “fight because we are full of envy and jealousy.” Somebody has something we don’t have and we envy him for what he has. And so we fight because, basically, we are greedy and possessive. Another boy has the girl I want. I get mad and fight with him because I am jealous.
We also fight with one another because we are always asking for things that are selfish and not very good. We’re always asking for things for our own pleasure, James says. When our selfishness is frustrated, when we don’t get what we want selfishly, we get angry and we lash out at whoever happens to be nearby – a husband or a wife or a friend. You want to go to a party, especially if you are a girl, but your father says you have to stay home to study because it is a weekday and there is class tomorrow, and you get mad and fight with everybody in the house. It really isn’t the husband or the wife or the friend or the parent you are angry with. You are angry because you didn’t get what you wanted. You’re angry because you want it – too much, maybe – but can’t have it.
The solution to a lot of our fights is to want less. When we simplify and purify our needs and wants, we are less likely to get frustrated. Buddha taught that much of the pain in life comes from desire. Minimize the desire and we minimize the pain and the frustration. In this case, we are less likely to get angry and fight with one another. If we have fewer wants, we will have fewer fights.
Too many wants. Wanting the wrong things. Envy of what others have. All these cause most of our fights. Want less. Be willing to share and to compromise. Be satisfied with what we have. That’s how we can avoid most of the fights in the family and among friends. It all comes down to love and unselfishness – the lesson that Christ kept repeating over and over again.
But James is ever the practical teacher. The lesson of love is a hard one to put into practice. Want less and you’ll fight less, he says. But in the last half of the fourth chapter in the Epistle, James adds two other practical rules for a lot of the fighting that contaminates our lives and destroys our peace.
Don’t criticize people, James says, and don’t boast. Criticism is often really envy and disguised wanting. It makes people mad and we fight. Boasting is often the cover-up we use to hide or compensate for the fact that we don’t have something we really want. Our friends get mad at us because we are always talking about wat we have or what we have done, and so we fight.
Want less, especially if others don’t have anything at all. Don’t criticize others for selfish reason. Don’t boast to prove that others are inferior. Don’t boast at all because that won’t be necessary if you are that good. That’s what love is all about. And when there’s love, we fight less.