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How A Man May Be Benefited By His Enemies
by [?]

Sec. III. In the first place then it seems to me that what is most injurious in enmity may become most useful to those that pay attention to it? To what do I refer? Why, to the way in which your enemy ever wide awake pries into all your affairs, and analyzes your whole life, trying to get a handle against you somewhere, able not only to look through a tree, like Lynceus,[504] or through stones and shells, but through your friend and domestic and every intimate acquaintance, as far as possible detecting your doings, and digging and ferreting into your designs. For our friends are ill and often die without our knowing anything about it through our delay and carelessness, but we almost pry into even the dreams of our enemies; and our enemy knows even more than we do ourselves of our diseases and debts and differences with our wives.[505] But they pay most attention to our faults and hunt them out: and as vultures follow the scent of putrid carcases, and cannot perceive sound and wholesome ones, so the diseases and vices and crimes of life attract the enemy, and on these those that hate us pounce, these they attack and tear to pieces. Is not this an advantage to us? Certainly it is. For it teaches us to live warily and be on our guard, and neither to do or say anything carelessly or without circumspection, but ever to be vigilant by careful mode of living that we give no handle to an enemy. For the cautiousness that thus represses the passions and follows reason implants a care and determination to live well and without reproach. For as those states that have been sobered by wars with their neighbours and continual campaigns love the blessings of order and peace, so those people who are compelled to lead a sober life owing to their enemies, and to be on their guard against carelessness and negligence, and to do everything with an eye to utility, imperceptibly glide into a faultless mode of life, and tone down their character, even without requiring much assistance from precepts. For those who always remember the line,

“Ah! how would Priam and his sons rejoice,”[506]

are by it diverted from and learn to shun all such things as their enemies would rejoice and laugh at. Again we see actors[507] and singers on the stage oftentimes slack and remiss, and not taking sufficient pains about their performances in the theatres when they have it all to themselves; but when there is a competition and contest with others, they not only wake up but tune their instruments, and adjust their chords, and play on the flute with more care. Similarly whoever knows that his enemy is antagonistic to his life and character, pays more attention to himself, and watches his behaviour more carefully, and regulates his life. For it is peculiar to vice to be more afraid of enemies than friends in regard to our faults. And so Nasica, when some expressed their opinion that the Roman Republic was now secure, since Carthage was rased to the ground and Achaia reduced to slavery, said, “Nay rather we are now in a critical position, since we have none left to fear or respect.”

Sec. IV. Consider also that very philosophical and witty answer of Diogenes to the man who asked, “How shall I avenge myself on my enemy?” “By becoming a good and honest man.”[508] Some people are terribly put about if they see their enemies’ horses in a good condition, or hear their dogs praised; if they see their farm well-tilled, their garden well-kept, they groan aloud. What a state think you then they would be in, if you were to exhibit yourself as a just man, sensible and good, in words excellent, in deeds pure, in manner of life decorous, “reaping fruit from the deep soil of the soul, where good counsels grow.”[509] Pindar says[510] “those that are conquered are reduced to complete silence:” but not absolutely, not all men, only those that see they are outdone by their enemies in industry, in goodness, in magnanimity, in humanity, in kindnesses; these, as Demosthenes says, “stop the tongue, block up the mouth, choke people, and make them silent.”[511]

“Be better than the bad: ’tis in your power.”[512]

If you wish to vex the man who hates you, do not abuse him by calling him a pathick, or effeminate, or intemperate, or a low fellow, or illiberal; but be yourself a man, and temperate, and truthful, and kind and just in all your dealings with those you come across. But if you are tempted to use abuse, mind that you yourself are very far from what you abuse him for, dive down into your own soul, look for any rottenness in yourself, lest someone suggest to you the line of the tragedian,

“You doctor others, all diseased yourself.”[513]

If you say your enemy is uneducated, increase your own love of learning and industry; if you call him coward, stir up the more your own spirit and manliness; and if you say he is wanton and licentious, erase from your own soul any secret trace of the love of pleasure. For nothing is more disgraceful or more unpleasant than slander that recoils on the person who sets it in motion; for as the reflection of light seems most to injure weak eyes, so does censure when it recoils on the censurer, and is borne out by the facts. For as the north-east wind attracts clouds, so does a bad life draw upon itself rebukes.