Give No Truces to Your Enemies
by Donavon L Riley

“Where you recognize evil, speak out against it, and give no truces to your enemies.” — Havamal

The ‘Havamal’ is an Old Norse poem, which can be traced back to the 13th century. It  consists of several smaller poems and its verses are attributed to the Norse god, Odin, which are referred to as the sayings of the High One. It is regarded as one of the most important sources of Old Norse philosophy, from the old age to now.

And so, these words — “Where you recognize evil, speak out against it, and give no truces to your enemies” — are not an artifact from the past but time-tested and well-worn wisdom that pierces through the complexities of contemporary life. In a world where we are constantly challenged to differentiate between virtue and vice, the Havamal offers us a compass—a guide that directs us to confront evil with unyielding speech and action, to stand firm against the adversaries that skulk about in public and lurk in the shadows.

The Havamal’s Unapologetic Call to Action

The Havamal is unapologetic in its call to action; there is no room for complacency. The call to “speak out against evil” is a constant drum beat intended to shake men awake, keeping them from slipping into the slumber of indifference. It is an assertion that recognizes the corrosive nature of silence in the face of malevolence. In the seemingly endless chaos and corruption of today’s modern culture, where moral ambiguity often cloaks itself in the guise of tolerance, the Havamal offers a clarion call—a stark reminder that recognizing evil isn’t enough; we must respond.

So the teachings of the Havamal are not a passive suggestion to sit passively and contemplate matters of good and evil, but a call to act—a recognition that speaking out against, and taking action against evil is an inherent duty, a manifestation of the strength that refuses to be complicit in the face of wrongdoing.

Silence Is The Breeding Ground for Malevolence

The Havamal’s insistence on speaking out and acting against evil acknowledges the insidious nature of silence. In a society where the fear of social reprisal often muzzles voices and suppresses truths, the ancient Norse wisdom stands as a bulwark against this encroaching darkness. It is a call to apply wisdom in real time, rejecting the cowardice of silence, and to step into the uncomfortable terrain of confrontation.

Consider our current cultural landscape, for example, where moral relativism often blurs the lines between right and wrong to push one political or ideological agenda over another. The Havamal’s charge to “speak out” is a horn in this moral fog—a reminder that in the face of malevolence, silence is not neutrality but acquiescence. It emboldens us to rise against the tide of moral apathy, recognizing that our voices, when united, can dispel the shadows that threaten to envelop the moral fabric of society.

No Truces When Faced with Adversaries

The Havamal’s directive to “give no truces to your enemies” is also a thunderous proclamation that reverberates through time. It rejects the notion of appeasement, urging us to stand firm against adversaries that seek to undermine virtue and sow discord. And in a world where compromise is often lauded as diplomacy, the Norse wisdom offers a counterpoint—a stance that refuses to yield to the enemies of righteousness.

Imagine the areas of life where, if we compromise, it would erode the foundations of ethical fortitude. Whether in personal relationships, professional endeavors, or societal engagements, the Havamal’s call us to “give no truces”, demanding from us a steadfast commitment to principles. It is a recognition that there are adversaries whose intentions are irreconcilable with virtue, and to compromise with them is to betray the strength that defines unwavering integrity for ourselves and others.

Applying Havamal to Contemporary Challenges

The wisdom of the Havamal, though rooted in an ancient Norse culture, finds poignant application in the challenges we face today. It is a guide for navigating the intricacies of a digital age, where moral battles often unfold in the arenas of ideas, words, and actions. The call to speak out against evil gains especial relevance now because of the cacophony of opinions that can so easily and throughly drown out the call of our consciences to do what’s right.

Online discourse, for example, offers an anonymity that often emboldens individuals to propagate malevolence. The Havamal’s charge to speak out is a call for us to be vigilant custodians of the digital space, as well as the physical world, recognizing that their words can either fuel the fires of malevolence or stand as bulwarks against the encroaching darkness. It prompts us to be discerning in our interactions, to recognize evil when it reveals itself in the guise of online vitriol, and to confront it with the strength of unyielding speech.

Building Brotherhood As A Unified Front Against Malevolence

On the other hand, the wisdom of the Havamal is not an isolated call for individual action but a charge to build a brotherhood—a unified front against malevolence. It recognizes that the strength of one man’s voice is amplified when joined by the chorus of others who share a commitment to virtue. In a society where hyper-individualism often fractures collective resolve, the Havamal urges us to forge bonds based on shared values and a collective commitment to speak out against evil.

The strength that arises when people stand together against the adversaries that threaten the foundations of virtue is considerable. This is why the Havamal’s call to give no truces to enemies becomes a rallying cry for a brotherhood that refuses to be divided by the insidious forces that seek to undermine the strength of unity. It is a recognition that in confronting evil, the collective voice of a united brotherhood resounds with a power that transcends the sum of its individual parts.

Passing Down the Torch of Virtue

Finally, as we embrace the wisdom of the Havamal, we become torchbearers of a particular legacy—a legacy that confronts evil with unwavering speech and stands firm against adversaries. It is a legacy that transcends individual lifetimes, a persistent message addressed to each generation as a testament to the enduring benefit of virtuous words and actions.

The wisdom of the Havamal, when embraced by men and women today, becomes a gift passed down to sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, and young men and women seeking guidance through the maze of contemporary challenges. It is a legacy that responds to the command to speak out against evil and give no truces to enemies, ensuring that the flame of virtue continues to burn brightly in the face of encroaching shadows.

In the timeless wisdom of the Havamal, we find not just a guide for confronting evil and standing against adversaries but a call to embody the resolute strength and benefits of virtue. It is a charge that transcends the boundaries of time, urging men and women in every generation to be vigilant custodians of virtue in an ever-changing world, that is often hostile towards that same virtue. So as we heed this call, we become caretakers of a legacy that withstands the test of time—a legacy rooted in the rugged wisdom of the Norse, where the message of unwavering speech and unyielding strength resound through the ages.


*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Donovan Riley

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, and contributing writer for 1517. He is also a co-host of Banned Books and Warrior Priest podcasts. He is the author of the book, "Crucifying Religion” and “The Withertongue Emails.” He is also a contributing author to "The Sinner/Saint Devotional: 60 Days in the Psalms" and "Theology of the Cross".

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