It is written: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation.
Ask how many among us can kindle a war between nations and the answer is few.
Ask how many among us can kindle strife between ourselves and those around us, and then the answer is too many.
Jealousy, envy, grudges, those are the swords of animosity between peoples.
Greed, possessiveness, over-sensitivity, disappointment in ourselves and our lot, those are the weapons that tear relationships asunder.
The nation we live in from day-to-day is not measured in millions of square miles, but in mere miles. In mere houses, comprised of parents, spouses, siblings, family, friends, neighbors, fellow-workers, fellow-comrades.
They are our contracts, they make or break our day, and we theirs. To them we owe the best in us.
It is beyond human nature to be utterly devoid of ill feelings, ill thoughts, wrongful acts, but it is not beyond human capacity to keep those negative feelings under control and discipline.
O Lord, if only we could see that peace, good feelings, and harmony begins with us. It is our own swords that needs to be sheathed.
When I started typing this invocation, written by my grandmother decades ago, I immediately thought she was talking about nations at war. You’d need to take off your shoes and use both your fingers and toes (and those of several friends) to count the number of countries, provinces, religious and ethnic groups currently at war. Topping the lists is Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Hamas, Afghanistan and the Taliban, Yemen and al-Qaeda, Somalia and al-Shabaab and Shiite al-Houthi militants, and the topsy-turvy turf war between Syria, Iraq, and ISIS.
But this invocation isn’t about conflicts among nations and groups, but strife on a micro-level, between family members, friends, co-workers, and those in one’s social circles. In a sense, technology is partially responsible for eroding cordiality, benevolence, and tolerance. It’s easy to misinterpret an email, instant message or social media post, and then quickly severe the relationship without exploring what the writer intended or considering whether dissolving the connection would upset the other person.
Are a few words jotted in cyberspace more important than a human connection?
The ease in which you can “friend,” “link,” and “message” a person tends to make relationship superficial. Rather than recognizing someone as a living being with needs and emotions, they’re nothing more than a name on a list. When you no longer want to associate with the name, simply “defriend” or “delete” them.
I worked at Microsoft for over four years. The day I left, a handful deleted me from their Facebook accounts. I no longer existed, and the interactions I’d had with them irrelevant. I’d recently learned, from a friend, one of these individuals got cancer and had a double mastectomy. While I should have empathy, I don’t. It’s not that I have ill-will, I simply see her as she saw me. Disposable.
I have an app that shows who’ve “defriended” me. One was someone I worked with at Dell. I’ll miss seeing pictures of his family, but since we didn’t interact on Facebook, and were co-workers and not friends, I was probably dropped when he cleaned up his Facebook accounts.
Another was a rather nasty, opinioned woman I knew from Microsoft. I occasionally comments on her posts, offering advice when she solicited it. She was very critical of me, saying I was a hoarder and had mental problems. I enjoyed reading about her struggles and vicious observation of others. She had a bizarrely enhanced view of herself, even though she held an administrative role, and was known for deferring work, which was clearly her responsibility to complete.
A third was an older woman who I introduced to Rich when he first became a realtor. For six weeks, Rich drove her around the area, showing her houses and condos. She was interested in selling her house, and renting a smaller place. When Rich was unable to locate a suitable place for her to rent, which matched her budget, she sent him a note, saying she was going to hire her nephew to sell her house, rather than Rich. She reasoned, Rich hadn’t given her “good advice.”
I think she was genuinely shocked when I refused to talk to her, and shower her with praise for the marginal contributions she’d made for an event I was coordinating and overseeing. The work she did — early in the project — comprised 5% of what needed to be done. I guess she felt two hours of her time was more valuable than the six weeks and fifty or so of Rich’s.
The fourth person who recently defriended me was a man I dated a few years before I met Rich. We’d kept in touch throughout the years, sometimes, exchanging lengthy emails about his recovery from a horrific bicycle accident, which damaged his elbow. His advice, when I was in a car accident in 2007, helped me push through the pain. I owe him gratitude for his support during a difficult (and painful) time. I’m a bit upset he defriended me. Perhaps, he like others – including a cousin – didn’t care for my political opinions.
This brings up another area, which causes strife, especially in America – politics. My grandmother wrote, “Jealousy, envy, grudges, those are the swords of animosity between peoples.” This hold true in today’s political environment, where the country is split in between political parties, splintering families, friends, and co-workers.
Other words for jealousy are protective, mistrustful, and resentful. All of these words can be plastered on the political opinions of members from both parties. On one side, there’s protectiveness when it comes to retaining social services and programs while the other side resents the taxes they have to pay. One side is for immigration reform, the other wants to close the borders and deport illegal immigrants. Both sides are distrustful, sharing their animosity and disdain at each other’s viewpoints and causes.
In the end, the swords come out. Families are fractured. Friends scorned. Co-workers snubbed. Neighbor’s disregarded, and once strong institutions rampaged by people with differing views breaking away.