Shells from the Sands of Time/On the Gratitude we owe our Enemies
IT was a pithy saying that of Lorenzo de' Medici, and true as pithy, that we are enjoined to forgive our enemies, but nowhere are we told that we should forgive our friends. One thing is certain, that even our most inverterate and most influential enemies could prevail but little against us (so invariably does unscrupulous malice defeat itself), but for the treachery, collusion, cowardice, weakness, or imbecility of our nominal friends! Therefore we owe this debt of gratitude to our enemies (and it is not a small one), that they have been the means of our discovering the vipers that we have unconsciously been warming at our hearths, or worse still, it may be, in our bosoms, before they had the power of injuring us further. Appeal to any one's experience, and he will tell you that he has largely (that is, with so few exceptions as to establish the rule), proved the truth of Rochefoucault's maxim, "Faire un bienfait, faire un ingrat1;" and yet, as in the vegetable and mineral kingdoms there grows an antidote near every poison, so in the moral world are there innumerable antidotes to this most deadly of all poisons, ingratitude, even in the immensity of unsuspected, gratuitous, unalloyed, and therefore almost sublime goodness, that exists up and down and round about the world. For seldom does any flagrant instance of baseness or ingratitude befall us, but the reaction of the blow strikes at other hearts that we ignored till then, and sets the unsealed fountains of their sympathy and sense of outraged justice gushing towards us in a thousand acts of kindness and devotion. For no tittle of God's word ever fails, and thus is His promise fulfilled, that if we cast our bread upon the waters, after many days it shall return to us. But to convince us of our own weakness and His strength, it generally does return to us at times and places where we could have least hoped for it, or rather where we most despaired of it. When the necessity is at the greatest and the spirit at the faintest, then comes the miraculous bread in the wilderness, WHICH, OUT OF HUMAN IMPOSSIBILITIES, NOT ONLY SUPPLIES OUR WANTS, BUT EXCEEDS THEM.
- Faire un bienfait, faire un ingrat: kindess begets ingratitude