“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” - Gandhi
Whether you’re Christian or not, there’s something in the teachings of Jesus that is worth contemplation, for anyone who seeks to be a better person: his urging that we love our enemies.
Why is this message an important one, even if you’re not a Christian? I’m not here to discuss Christian teachings, but to address universal problems found in every human being, no matter what your religion or non-religion. And this is a universal problem: the hatred we feel for other people, hatred that wells up inside of us and causes destructive actions, for people who might have harmed us in some way but in the end are fellow human beings who we must live with in a common society.
And it’s an idea that was taught not only by Christ, but by Buddha, Gandhi, and many other great people and religions.
“Your enemy” doesn’t just mean the enemy of your state, of course. We’re not talking about terrorists, we’re talking about people you really dislike, in any way.
Who are these people? Maybe someone who has picked on you or called you names or disrespected you in some way, causing you anger … maybe you hold a grudge against them. Maybe a family member you’ve had a big fight with … maybe you’ve been angry at them for some time. Maybe someone who did something horrible to a loved one, from physically hurting them to scarring them from a damaging relationship.
And what does it mean to love these people? Obviously it’s non-romantic love, but there’s lots of different kinds of non-romantic love. There’s the love you have for your children, your siblings, your parents, your best friends … all of these are different in some way. Then there’s the love you have for someone who just did something wonderful for you, whether that’s someone you know or a complete stranger. There’s the love for a child you’ve never met but who somehow pulls at your heartstrings. There’s the love for your fellow human beings — and this is the love I mean.
To “Love Your Enemy” is to find it in your heart to put aside any wrongs, and to love them as a fellow human being. You don’t have to love them like you love your parents or children or best friend. Just have loving feelings toward them … and if possible, express it through words, or by doing something nice, or with a smile.
Why Should I Love My Enemy?
You’ll be happier. If you have anger or resentment inside of you, even if you don’t think about it all the time, there will be times when it surfaces. And that makes you unhappy. It’s destructive, inwardly (it eats you up) and outwardly (you might do destructive things to others). That anger also affects others around you, such as your loved ones, who are most likely affected in some way when you are angry — even if the anger isn’t directed at them. Removing this anger from yourself is a positive thing, and it will make you happier overall.
You could change that person’s life. Your enemy is a human being, and it’s very possible that your hatred of that person is a source of grief, tension, or hatred in them. Now, that might feel good to you in a vindictive way, but if you look at it objectively, removing your feelings from the situation … hurting another person is always a bad thing. Making them happier is a good thing. And interestingly, making someone happier, no matter who that is, can make us happier.
You set a better example for others. Our actions set an example for other people in our lives. If you have children, for example, they learn from anything you do. Teaching them to hate is not a positive example. But teaching them to overcome that anger and hate, to make up with an enemy, and to love … there is no better example in life.
It’s a test of you as a person. This might not be important to many people, but for me it is. I like to think of myself as a good person, but how good am I if I am just loving to my family and friends? That’s extremely easy (usually). But a better test of your goodness is if you can overcome feelings of hatred or resentment, and turn them into feelings of love. That’s a true challenge. And it’s a life-long challenge.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
Can you truly forgive this person for what they’ve done, in your heart? If you’ve detached yourself, you’ve sought to understand, and you’ve accepted them and what has happened … it should be easier. Try to think about this: what happened is in the past. It cannot be changed. You can either hate what’s happened in the past, and change nothing but be angry … or you can accept it and move on. Let it go. It will do nothing but eat you up. Once you’ve let go of the past … let go of your feelings about what this person has done. Move on. Those feelings can do you no good.
Our hearts tend to remain closed to most people, as a defensive mechanism. We are afraid of being vulnerable, of getting rejected or hurt. And yet, this closing off of our hearts is what blocks us from happiness many times, what blocks us from forming relationships, what blocks us from loving and finding love. Even if we’re able to open our hearts to our loved ones but no one else … that’s limiting ourselves. This is a great challenge, and something that really can only happen with practice. Try it here, with your former enemy … even if you can just open your heart a little, that’s the only way you’ll find love for the person.
/ Zen Habits /
Love Your Enemies
The greatest peacemaker of all is to Love your enemies.
This short animation, created for Genesis the Church service on Aug. 31st 2008, illustrates how we attack our enemies, and what our response should be when we have an enemy. Responding with love is the way to make the world a better place for everyone.
This post was modified from its original form on 05 Aug, 3:12