It has been said that the height of the virtue of prudence consists in minding one’s own affairs, living and let live, and not getting involved in things that could cause you problems. But at its root this is not good advice for how to live your life. The great thinker Edmund Burke said that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” And so if we want evil to increase, all we have to do is adopt the strategy outlined above.
Instead, as the great Brazilian thinker Plinio Côrrea de Oliveira teaches, “True balance is the balance of a knight on his horse.” In fact, to quote the entire passage in its context, he says: “Balance is not the position of a man sitting peacefully on a recliner. True balance is the balance of a knight on his horse, while realizing all of his potential with the greatest intensity.” In other words, balance is not a passive attitude but a dynamic one; it is the attitude of one who fights a battle. Thus, balance is not an attitude to be held toward others but towards oneself, an attitude to be merited and gained by trying to prepare oneself for the agony of the spiritual combat.
The author Lorenzo Scupoli wrote in The Spiritual Combat:
“Since Your Majesty always has been pleased and still is pleased by sacrifices offered by us mortals when they are offered to your glory from a pure heart, I present this treatise on the spiritual combat, dedicating it to your divine Majesty. Nor do I hesitate because this treatise is small: in fact it is well known that you alone are the Most High Lord who delights in humble things and despises the vanity and pretenses of the world. How could I dedicate it to any other person than your Majesty without blame and condemnation, to you who are the King of heaven and earth? Whatever this treatise teaches is entirely your teaching, for you have taught us that we must rely entirely on you, not trusting in ourselves, and so we must fight and pray. Furthermore, if every battle needs to have an expert general who guides the battle and gives the soldiers a fighting spirit, who will apply themselves to the battle all the more generously the more they fight under an invincible captain, how could the same not be true for the spiritual combat? Therefore, we elect you as our captain, Jesus Christ (all of us who are resolved to fight and conquer any and every enemy): you who have conquered the world and the prince of darkness, you who by your sacred wounds and the death of your most sacred flesh have won the flesh of all those who have fought and will fight generously in the spiritual combat.”
Therefore, all those who seek balance in order to prepare themselves for battle have the Lord Jesus Christ as their supreme head, according to this master of the spiritual life. He adds further:
“And because you aspire to the height of such perfection, you must do continual violence to yourself in order to generously conquer and cancel out all of your own desires, however great or small they may be. It is necessary that with all readiness of soul you prepare yourself for this battle. In fact, no crown is given except to those who fight valorously. And just as this battle is more difficult than any other (since we are in fact fighting against ourselves), so also the victory obtained will me more glorious than any other and more precious to God.
If you give your attention to trampling down and putting to death all of your disordered appetites, desires, and wishes, even the smallest, you will give greater pleasure and service to God than if, voluntarily keeping these disorders alive, you were scourged to the point of shedding blood and fasted more than the ancient hermits and anchorites or converted thousands of souls to the good. Although the Lord is pleased more with the conversion of souls in itself than with the mortification of a tiny desire, nevertheless you must neither want nor do anything other than what the Lord himself rigorously seeks from you. And without any doubt he is pleased the more you exert yourself and focus on mortifying your passions than if, leaving even one desire voluntarily alive within you, you would serve him in something that is great and of greater importance. Now that you see, daughter, in what Christian perfection consists and that in order to acquire it you must undertake a continuous and bitter war against yourself, you need to provide yourself with four things that are like certain and necessary weapons, in order to gain the palm of victory and remain victorious in this spiritual battle. These are: distrust of self, confidence in God, spiritual discipline, and prayer.”
In short, as we have said, the greatest battle that every knight must fight is against his most ferocious enemy – that is, himself. At times we hide this battle by professing to have high ideals and noble intentions. But in so doing we often seek to flee from the mortal battle against our own vices, desires, and sins. This is why life must be thought of as a battle which leads us to confront not only ourselves but also the imprints of evil in history. We must be ready to fight against a society that subverts natural values and teaches us that we should call white black and black white. The battle against this society is painful; it requires enormous sacrifices and invites us to accept huge mortifications, above all on a personal level. Let’s not think that we are doing anything extraordinary or particularly praiseworthy by throwing ourselves into this battle; we are doing nothing other than what our vocation requires of us.
“True balance is the balance of a knight on his horse.” May we never forget this, may we not think that we can flee from this idea to cultivate an amorphous life, seated in our armchairs doing nothing, allowing the world to devour reality in order to replace it with a fictitious reality, a reality that does not really exist but is merely convenient for the men who manipulateour society behind the scenes to subvert nature. If we don’t do anything, if we don’t fight, we are as guilty as those who are on the side opposed to us. True balance is not letting things just go as they may, but it involves effort, concentration, battle. We must not fear disappointments, bitterness, and defeat. Indeed, especially in a world in which everything fights against the good, we embrace all of our defeats as if they were the most precious good of all.