QUESTION 41: OF STRIFE
We must now consider strife, under which head there are two points of
(1) Whether strife is a sin?
(2) Whether it is a daughter of anger?
Article 1: Whether strife is always a sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that strife is not always a sin. For strife seems a
kind of contention: hence Isidore says (Etym. x) that the word "rixosus
[quarrelsome] is derived from the snarling [rictu] of a dog, because the
quarrelsome man is ever ready to contradict; he delights in brawling, and
provokes contention." Now contention is not always a sin. Neither,
therefore, is strife.
Objection 2: Further, it is related (Gn. 26:21) that the servants of Isaac
"digged" another well, "and for that they quarrelled likewise." Now it is
not credible that the household of Isaac quarrelled publicly, without
being reproved by him, supposing it were a sin. Therefore strife is not a
Objection 3: Further, strife seems to be a war between individuals. But war is not always sinful. Therefore strife is not always a sin.
On the contrary, Strifes [*The Douay version has 'quarrels'] are
reckoned among the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:20), and "they who do such
things shall not obtain the kingdom of God." Therefore strifes are not
only sinful, but they are even mortal sins.
I answer that, While contention implies a contradiction of words, strife
denotes a certain contradiction of deeds. Wherefore a gloss on Gal. 5:20
says that "strifes are when persons strike one another through anger."
Hence strife is a kind of private war, because it takes place between
private persons, being declared not by public authority, but rather by an
inordinate will. Therefore strife is always sinful. In fact it is a
mortal sin in the man who attacks another unjustly, for it is not without
mortal sin that one inflicts harm on another even if the deed be done by
the hands. But in him who defends himself, it may be without sin, or it
may sometimes involve a venial sin, or sometimes a mortal sin; and this
depends on his intention and on his manner of defending himself. For if
his sole intention be to withstand the injury done to him, and he defend
himself with due moderation, it is no sin, and one cannot say properly
that there is strife on his part. But if, on the other hand, his
self-defense be inspired by vengeance and hatred, it is always a sin. It
is a venial sin, if a slight movement of hatred or vengeance obtrude
itself, or if he does not much exceed moderation in defending himself:
but it is a mortal sin if he makes for his assailant with the fixed
intention of killing him, or inflicting grievous harm on him.
Reply to Objection 1: Strife is not just the same as contention: and there are
three things in the passage quoted from Isidore, which express the
inordinate nature of strife. First, the quarrelsome man is always ready
to fight, and this is conveyed by the words, "ever ready to contradict,"
that is to say, whether the other man says or does well or ill. Secondly,
he delights in quarrelling itself, and so the passage proceeds, "and
delights in brawling." Thirdly, "he" provokes others to quarrel,
wherefore it goes on, "and provokes contention."
Reply to Objection 1: The sense of the text is not that the servants of Isaac
quarrelled, but that the inhabitants of that country quarrelled with
them: wherefore these sinned, and not the servants of Isaac, who bore the
calumny [*Cf. Gn. 26:20].
Reply to Objection 3: In order for a war to be just it must be declared by
authority of the governing power, as stated above (Question , Article ); whereas
strife proceeds from a private feeling of anger or hatred. For if the
servants of a sovereign or judge, in virtue of their public authority,
attack certain men and these defend themselves, it is not the former who
are said to be guilty of strife, but those who resist the public
authority. Hence it is not the assailants in this case who are guilty of
strife and commit sin, but those who defend themselves inordinately.
Article 2: Whether strife is a daughter of anger?
Objection 1: It would seem that strife is not a daughter of anger. For it is
written (James 4:1): "Whence are wars and contentions? Are they not . . .
from your concupiscences, which war in your members?" But anger is not in
the concupiscible faculty. Therefore strife is a daughter, not of anger,
but of concupiscence.
Objection 2: Further, it is written (Prov. 28:25): "He that boasteth and
puffeth up himself, stirreth up quarrels." Now strife is apparently the
same as quarrel. Therefore it seems that strife is a daughter of pride or
vainglory which makes a man boast and puff himself up.
Objection 3: Further, it is written (Prov. 18:6): "The lips of a fool
intermeddle with strife." Now folly differs from anger, for it is
opposed, not to meekness, but to wisdom or prudence. Therefore strife is
not a daughter of anger.
Objection 4: Further, it is written (Prov. 10:12): "Hatred stirreth up
strifes." But hatred arises from envy, according to Gregory (Moral. xxxi,
17). Therefore strife is not a daughter of anger, but of envy.
Objection 5: Further, it is written (Prov. 17:19): "He that studieth discords,
soweth [Vulg.: 'loveth'] quarrels." But discord is a daughter of
vainglory, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore strife is also.
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 17) that "anger gives rise
to strife"; and it is written (Prov. 15:18; 29:22): "A passionate man
stirreth up strifes."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), strife denotes an antagonism
extending to deeds, when one man designs to harm another. Now there are
two ways in which one man may intend to harm another. In one way it is as
though he intended absolutely the other's hurt, which in this case is the
outcome of hatred, for the intention of hatred is directed to the hurt of
one's enemy either openly or secretly. In another way a man intends to
hurt another who knows and withstands his intention. This is what we mean
by strife, and belongs properly to anger which is the desire of
vengeance: for the angry man is not content to hurt secretly the object
of his anger, he even wishes him to feel the hurt and know that what he
suffers is in revenge for what he has done, as may be seen from what has
been said above about the passion of anger (FS, Question , Article , ad 2).
Therefore, properly speaking, strife arises from anger.
Reply to Objection 1: As stated above (FS, Question , Articles ,2), all the irascible
passions arise from those of the concupiscible faculty, so that whatever
is the immediate outcome of anger, arises also from concupiscence as from
its first root.
Reply to Objection 2: Boasting and puffing up of self which are the result of
anger or vainglory, are not the direct but the occasional cause of
quarrels or strife, because, when a man resents another being preferred
to him, his anger is aroused, and then his anger results in quarrel and
Reply to Objection 3: Anger, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ) hinders the
judgment of the reason, so that it bears a likeness to folly. Hence they
have a common effect, since it is due to a defect in the reason that a
man designs to hurt another inordinately.
Reply to Objection 4: Although strife sometimes arises from hatred, it is not the
proper effect thereof, because when one man hates another it is beside
his intention to hurt him in a quarrelsome and open manner, since
sometimes he seeks to hurt him secretly. When, however, he sees himself
prevailing, he endeavors to harm him with strife and quarrel. But to hurt
a man in a quarrel is the proper effect of anger, for the reason given
Reply to Objection 5: Strifes give rise to hatred and discord in the hearts of
those who are guilty of strife, and so he that "studies," i.e., intends
to sow discord among others, causes them to quarrel among themselves.
Even so any sin may command the act of another sin, by directing it to
its own end. This does not, however, prove that strife is the daughter of
vainglory properly and directly.