Bad Men

Day 158 of A Year of War and Peace

Imagine being an acquaintance of someone like Anatole Kuragin. Someone like, say, a colleague, a work associate, or even a family member. How does one deal with a man of such low character?

Just look at the guy: he’s rude and boisterous and lacks all moral fiber. He holds everyone, probably even his own family, in contemptuous disregard. He’s little more than a petulant child. He has abandoned his wife to live first as a libertine in Russia and then as the debaucher of a young, innocent woman affianced already to another man. Anatole is a coward, too, because the other man is currently abroad and therefore not around to do anything about it.

In today’s chapter Anatole fares no better. He continues to insist that his “friends” go along with his crazy plan. Then, when it’s time to say goodbye, there is not even a hint of a heartfelt sense of sorrow at their parting. Nope. Instead, it appears all Anatole regrets about his decision to elope is that his “revels” in Moscow are now over.

In the upcoming chapters we’ll be introduced to all manner of natural responses to Anatole’s behavior. We’ll see hatred, sorrow, anger, and frustration. Though these are all instinctive responses to the abhorrent behavior of another person they may not be the smartest response. Such responses, after all, are highly disruptive to the tranquil mind. Much better, perhaps, to take a calm step back and accept the world of human action as flawed and broken. Then attempt to help the man in error. If he refuses help forgive him and move along, accepting his refusal as outside the realm of your control.


They have gone astray in matters of good and evil. Ought we, then, to be angry with them, or to pity them? Do but show them their error, and you will see how they will amend their faults; but, if they do not see it, they have nothing higher than their personal opinion to rely on.

Epictetus, The Discourses

This is the one hundred and fifty-eighth installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

I’m also very interested in hearing what you have to say about the novel. So leave a comment and let me know.

I’m on twitter and I have a webpage if you want to talk more.

For my friends and family, love. For my enemies, durian fruit.

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