Please forgive me for all the times I’ve said something snarky but thought I was being witty, profound, or thought provoking. I should probably have to write that on the chalkboard one hundred times every night for the next 25 years. Why? Because, I was just on Facebook which I usually do in the morning with my first cup of coffee. Today as I read different posts about the ACA, President Obama, Millennials, Olympian attire, the Koch brothers, etc., I was struck by how little was actually said. Oh, a lot was written but most of it didn’t advance the conversation.
Suddenly I understood something about my word for the year–release. I realized I needed to let go of the temptation to reply in kind to the posts that irritated me. Snark would not help. Witt would not find solutions. Sarcasm would not produce sincere dialogue. Derision would not form trust. Hyperbole would not produce a workable plan. And, scorn would not make friends. Some like minded individual might laugh but at what cost?
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?” The answer is obviously, yes. But the underlying question, “How then do I make my enemy my friend?” is not so quick in coming.
For me, the first step toward making my enemy my friend is to recognize the fact that my enemy may hold something against me. At first I am tempted to excuse that something away by telling myself he doesn’t have a right to feel about me the way he does because whatever it was I might have done was justified. She just doesn’t understand the whole situation or offended me first. Of course, such thinking isn’t too conducive to relationship building and I will need to stop my thinking before I get to the excuses. The truth is my enemies perceptions are not dependent on mine. Period. I can think they are inaccurate but that doesn’t stop them or alter them. The best thing I can do is acknowledge them and try to better understand how and why these perceptions exist. But this step is not without its set of risks.
Some student of psychology once hypothesized that humans have two baseline emotions–fear and desire. Everything else according to the hypothesis is an off shoot. When it comes to relationships we want to be accepted but are afraid of being rejected. When it comes to the unknown we want to understand, feel confident, and be successful but are afraid that won’t happen because we haven’t the experience to back up our desire. Often these situations are easier to avoid than to engage. Avoiding them, however, keeps us stuck, often in a place of fear.
The off shoots of fear include distrust, aggression, and self-protection. These emotions can cause us to behave in profoundly negative ways. We label the people or things that threaten us with ugly derogatory terms. We exaggerate their offense and their ability to impact us and those we love. We minimize our own culpability in the problem. A perfect example of this kind of thinking is the far left idea that anyone who owns a gun is going to shoot someone with it. Likewise, the suggestion that if we allow same sex marriage heterosexual marriage is threatened illustrates the influence fear has on our thinking. To get past our fear we must decide relationship is more important than isolation, compassion more valuable than suspicion, and problem solving more necessary than antagonism.
Once I’ve given my enemies permission (within my own mind/spirit) to hold a different perception than mine I have started on the path toward understanding and through understanding, perhaps, friendship. I can ask questions for clarity rather than to make a point. I can widen my own perceptions because I recognize differences. Ultimately, I experience more truth than my singular point of view otherwise allows.
I’ve written this post as part of the Syncroblog. Below are links to other posts on the topic of Loving Our Enemies.
- Todi Adu – Love is War, War in Love
- Todi Adu – Love is Your Weapon; Fight for Love
- Carol Kuniholm – Circles of Love
- K. W. Leslie – Love Your Enemies
- Doreen A Mannion – Easy to Love
- Liz Dyer – Uncomfortable Love
- Mike Donahoe – Love Your Enemies Really
- EmKay Anderson – On Loving While Angry
- Glenn Hager – The Opposite of Love is Not Hate
- Josie Anna – On Love Because I am Loved
- Edwin Aldrich – Loving All of Our Neighbors
- Jeremy Myers – How do you heap burning coals on the heads of your enemies?