Live And Let Live

Thursday, Feb 8, 2024
Jim Sutton

Live and let live is a way of saying that you should let other people behave in the way that they want to and not criticize them for behaving differently from you. This saying may have come about originally in European society in 1622 by Gerard de Malynes in a book about trade law. The Iroquois nation had a “Great Law of Peace” predating that by centuries that is reputed to be the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. This system of government embodied the ideals of “live and let live” by working out the details for how power and responsibility go hand in hand. The reader would do well to learn about this huge influence on the founding fathers of America.

The application today, however, is even more important. I ran across an article recently regarding a viral video of a professor guiding a student in an exercise to learn critical thinking. The article can be read here, and the viral video can be viewed here. The exercise involved confronting the angst some people have against J.K. Rowling for her statements and beliefs regarding the reality of two genders – male and female. The epiphany that the student had in the end when he realized his error in condemning J.K. Rowling was refreshing, to say the least. There is hope that a mislead generation that has strayed so far from what makes life meaningful and engaging can be brought back to the reality of transcendent truth outside of ones self.

But that still leaves the problem of my generation that was steeped in materialism and hedonism. That was the unfortunate foundation that successive generations experienced. There were some in the generations following that saw the vanity of that tendency as evidenced by their pro active stances against the emptiness of hedonism. But far too many think that the “pursuit of happiness” means that their pursuit of happiness can violate the “live and let live” principle that Scripture seems to indicate in many passages. Here are just a few: “Turn the other cheek”, and “Give and it will be given unto you”. “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with each other” and “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”.

I’ve read a book by Wayne Arthurson called “In the Shadows of our Ancestors” which is a historical account of the native peoples in North and South America dating back to several centuries prior to the time of Christ. The “Great Law of Peace” that brought about peace between warring groups and setup a government is discussed in the book. This compact provided equal rights for the native Americans unknown to European, African or Asian governments till recent history. Where these people came from, how they populated and lived in these two great continents, their successes and their errors are not studied enough or understood by people today.

Scripture tells us that we will have “tribulation”, which means great trouble or suffering in our sojourn here on earth. The comfort for those who believe in the words of Jesus is that He has overcome the world by his death on a cross, and his resurrection and power over death. This is something that provides a key understanding for how to live and let live. If this life has meaning beyond the grave, our opportunity to forgive as God has forgiven us enables a “live and let live” idea that native Americans had explored and worked out to a large degree with their system of governance.

There is another popular saying that tells the other side of “live and let live”, and I would be remiss not to mention it. “Live and let die” was made popular in a James Bond movie. The basic idea is to remind the viewer that by not intervening against evil, someone possibly dies. This is the tension between peace and war, the struggle between good and evil that will be with us all of our lives here on earth. When should we pursue peace, and when should justice be advanced? These are questions everyone struggles with to some degree, whether they will admit it or not. The Chinese developed a philosophy of yin and yang, or passive and receptive (yin) and repelling and expansive (yang). But these qualities describe attributes that can be placed on both good and evil. The irony is that many people think yin is equated with good and yang with evil. But this is an erroneous and naïve view of the philosophy developed by the Chinese over centuries in regards to yin and yang. The concept is well worth studying, especially regarding health issues to bring clarity to ones understanding of the concepts the Chinese developed.

To live with each other in peace takes a balance of retractive and active initiatives, depending on the intent and motivation of the interaction. For instance, I have learned that sometimes it is best to not speak my mind in a given situation (retractive), and sometimes it is best to say what comes to mind (active) for the benefit of the relationship. My wife understands this better than me, and I have learned to appreciate and value her discernment!

How can our conversations with family and friends be more like “apples of gold in settings of silver”? Let’s press on this year with that goal in mind!