Don’t contend with a man for no reason,
when he has done you no harm.
What these lines imply is that there are bad attitudes toward people/ conflicts with people that are unnecessary. Maybe there’s even a lot of these.
“Contend” is a good, general word that encapsulates everything from overt antagonism to frostiness. Think over people to whom you’re cold. Those whom when you think of them your stomach tightens and your breaths get a little shorter. Whom you can only think of darkly.
Are you bitter toward anyone? Oh, don’t be bitter.
[Young people, don’t be bitter – that is, find strategies toward dealing with people or your thoughts so that you don’t end up with the lines in your face, the darkness in your heart, the easy slipping into habits of coldness that you’ve learned from your elders.
Bitterness taints and uglifies and sucks out the energy and creativity and impoverishes. It spreads and it causes trouble and steals away beauty.]
But back to the thinking over those to whom you’re cold. Did they actually damage you?
I’m not talking about the vague, unfocused pseudo-harm that’s bandied about today so that everyone can claim to be a victim.
But think about it. Why actually are you pitting yourself against that person?
Are your hackles up with that person because they spent a lot of money on Christmas gifts? Do you dislike this family because they stopped going to your church? Are you angry with those people because they’ve never taken you seriously? Did someone rebuke you and you’re resentful? Is your colleague’s heaping of talent a threat to you? Do they annoy you because they’re so shy or they’re so confident? Are they not as involved as you think they should be? Is their car parked to close to yours? Are you distant with your sister because she is married? With your brother because he is popular? Did mom and dad pay more attention to them? Are your grown children not following the route you laid out for them?
Ok, but have you been harmed? And very often, the answer is, ‘well no, but…’
Did something happen to you? No, but it could have…
Resolve not to be thin-skinned. Clean out your liver. Lay off the vinegar. Resolve not to take yourself so seriously. Stop being so high-minded. Take people as they come.
You owe all people some things; you don’t have to give over to anybody your poise, your composure, your peace. Live and let live.
Take out a notebook. Conjure up the people in your mind that you feel darkly toward. Make two columns: #1: Write down their names. #2: Write down how they’ve harmed you.
In the second column, if there’s no blood letting or money taken from your account or serious dings against your reputation… consider tearing out the page and moving on.