CAUSES OF PRESENT-DAY AFFLICTIONS
4. The vicissitudes of life are of two kinds, or if you prefer, stem from two different sources which are important to distinguish. Some have their cause in present-day life, while others arise outside this present life.
On going back to the origins of earthly misfortunes it must be recognised that many are natural consequences of character and the behaviour of those who suffer them.
How many fail through their own fault? How many are the victims of their own thoughtlessness, pride or ambition?
How many destroy themselves through lack of discipline, misconduct or from not knowing how to limit their desires!
How many disastrous marriages are due to the fact that they were built on calculated interest or vanity, in which the heart took no part!
How many disagreements and fatal disputes could have been avoided with the aid of a little moderation and less susceptibility!
How many illnesses and diseases stem from intemperance and excesses of all kinds?
How many parents are unhappy with their children because they did not combat their bad instincts from an early age! Either from weakness or indifference, they allowed the germ of pride, selfishness and stupid vanity to grow in them, so causing their hearts to dry and shrivel. Later on, when reaping what they have sown, they are surprised and afflicted by the lack of gratitude and the indifference with which they are treated.
We ask each one whose heart has been hurt by vicissitudes or deceptions, to study their own conscience closely; to go back, step by step, to the origins of each misfortune which is torturing them. Like as not they will be able to say: if I had done, or not done, such and such a thing, I would not be where I am now.
Who then is responsible for Man's afflictions if not Man himself? So then in a great number of cases he is the cause of his own misfortunes. But instead of recognising this fact he finds it easier and less humiliating to his vanity to accuse his bad luck, providence or even his unlucky star, when in actual fact his unlucky star is his own carelessness.
When reckoning with the misfortunes of life, suffering of this nature undoubtedly forms the greatest part of all vicissitudes. Only when Man works at bettering himself, both morally and intellectually, will he be able to avoid this category of suffering.
5. Human laws cover various faults and prescribe punishment. In these cases it is possible for the condemned man to recognise that he is suffering the consequences of the wrong committed. But the law does not or cannot, reach every wrong; it falls principally upon those who cause damage to society and not upon those who only cause damage to themselves. God, however, does not allow any detour from the straight and narrow path to go unpunished. There is no wrong or infraction of His Law, however small, which does not carry with it the inevitable consequence, which may be more or less deplorable. From this it follows that in small things, as in great matters, Man is always punished according to the manner in which he has sinned. The suffering which follows is always a warning that wrong has been done. This offers him experience and makes him feel the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, so that in the future these sources of bitterness may be avoided, but without which there would be no motive for betterment. If Man were to be confident of immunity he would only delay his own progress and therefore his future happiness.
Nevertheless, sometimes experience arrives rather late, when life has already been wasted and become disordered, when strength is already spent and the person is no longer able to remedy the wrongdoing. Then man will frequently say: If I had known then what I know now how many false steps would have been avoided! If I had to begin again I would act differently, but now there is no more time! Like the lazy workman who says, 'I have wasted my day', he also says, ' I have wasted my life!' As the sun rising on a new day allows the worker the possibility of repaying any lost time, so it is with Man that after a period of time in the tomb a new life shines forth which will enable advantage to be taken of past experience, and good resolutions for the future to be put into practice.