I recently ran across a quote that really struck a chord with me. It’s from a guy named Francesco Petrarch, a 14th century Italian scholar and poet… and his words from centuries ago still ring true today:
"Five enemies of peace inhabit with us -- avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride; if these were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace."
Francesco Petrarch identified five enemies of peace that plague us today as much as they did centuries ago.
Many of us are on the verge of making New Year’s resolutions… an often well-intentioned albeit short-lived exercise that most of us go through to better ourselves in some way… yet we completely abandon most of them three weeks into the New Year. However, I’d like to propose that we all consider ways to reduce the effects of the five enemies of peace in our lives. This will do more for us than setting lofty, practically unattainable goals. Let’s look at Petrarch’s five enemies of peace and consider ways to banish them.
The first barrier to peace is avarice. In today’s vernacular, we’d call this greed. There is no such thing as “enough” where greed is concerned. The needs of others not only don’t matter, they’re never even considered. Greed is an all-consuming beast that is never satisfied, no matter how much is gained.
Ambition may look good on the surface. After all, we want our kids to be ambitious and productive citizens, right? However, there is always that next level of achievement, the next promotion, or the next step up the corporate ladder that’s eluding the person who struggles with ambition. And they’ve got to do everything possible to take that next step, no matter the personal cost or sacrifice.
Envy is an insidious characteristic. The envious or jealous person wants what others have for themselves, whether it be a physical possession, a skill or talent, or a relationship. Don’t confuse envy with admiration. The admirer is happy for the other person, while the envious person wants it for themselves.
Anger can do a lot of harm to those in the presence of the person who struggles with this barrier to peace. Anger can present itself in explosive outbursts with long-lasting consequences or as a quiet, simmering pressure cooker waiting to explode. For the always-angry person, nothing ever seems to go their way, and everything seems to be out to get them.
Dictionary.com defines pride this way: “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority.” The prideful person is so full of himself that he barely has time to focus on others. His focus is so myopic that he can only see himself and his own accomplishments.
These five enemies of peace don’t live in isolation either. There are many of us that struggle with more than one of these things. Even in Scripture, we see more than one of these referenced in a single verse.
At the core of all five of these enemies of peace are two things: selfishness and discontentment. As we enter the New Year, let’s strive to put these enemies behind us and strive for perpetual peace.
Here are a few suggestions:
Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Try to say “thank you” at least 15 times a day for the simple things others do for you that largely go unnoticed.
Be content with the things you have. And take the time to slow down so you can fully enjoy them.
Give back. Charities get the bulk of their support at the end of a calendar year… but don’t forget they still have needs in January too.
Help others. We all need a helping hand from time to time, and you don’t have to look very far to find someone in need. It can be as simple as holding a door open for someone with an arm full of groceries.
Make time for those important to you. As the years tick away, it’s not your boss or company that will take care of you when you’re sick. It’s your friends and family.
Let’s boldly go into 2015 striving for perpetual peace!