“Not to give a false sign of peace.” (Rule of St. Benedict, Ch. 4)
I grew up a Presbyterian and one characteristic of Presbyterian preaching that I always enjoyed was the penchant for ministers to come up with pithy, easily remembered, sayings that conveyed a basic truth. If you are familiar with Scott Hahn you will have heard plenty of examples of this. One thing I remember him saying is, “Yes, God does love you just the way you are. But he loves you too much to leave you that way.”
Shortly before I came into the Church, I was listening to a sermon and the minister threw out this comment: “If you are having a hard time getting along with someone, pray for that person. You’ll be surprised how much you will change.”
I think that’s the point Benedict is trying to get across in Chapter 4 of the Rule. You might think the obvious meaning here is more like, if you’re not getting along with someone, don’t let them think you’re taking it. Let’em have it! But no, Benedict didn’t get to be a saint thinking like that.
As I reflect on this sentence, I think Benedict is telling us to look to ourselves when faced with difficult relationships. He wants us to ask ourselves what we are doing to improve the situation. Or better still, what have we done to make the situation worse? He doesn’t want us to be holding a grudge against anyone after the sun goes down. We should deal with these things right away.
Another lesson that might come from this little bit of the Rule is that we shouldn’t pretend to get along with someone when we don’t. We don’t want to just try to get along enough so that we don’t have to face the problem. He wants us to face the issue and do our best to resolve it.
It all comes back to what I heard in that sermon. We need to pray for the people in our lives who we find difficult to get along with, and hope that, somehow, God will change us.