As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave
my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. ~ Nelson Mandela
Loving our enemies is an ideal for human beings of any spiritual tradition. Mahatma Gandhi practiced it no less inspiringly than St. Francis. But it calls to mind the saying of Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 3:43f) And this, in turn, calls to mind what G. K. Chesterton said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”— Difficult, yes, but eminently worth trying, especially in our world torn by enmity. In the mess we are in, we don’t have much to lose by trying anything. Who knows? To love our enemies may be our only way out.
How, then, can we go about loving our enemies?
- Show your enemies the genuine respect that every human being deserves. Learn to think of them with compassion.
- In cultivating compassion, it may help to visualize your enemies as the children they once were (and somehow remain).
- Do not dispense compassion from above, but meet your enemies in your imagination always at eye-level.
- Make every effort to come to know and understand them better – their hopes, their fears, concerns, and aspirations.
- Search for common goals, spell them out, and try to explore together ways of reaching these goals.
- Don’t cling to your own convictions. Examine them in light of your enemies’ convictions with all the sincerity you can muster.
- Invite your enemies to focus on issues. While focusing on the issues at hand, suspend your convictions.
- Do not judge persons, but look closely at the effect of their actions. Are they building up or endangering the common good?
- Take a sober look at your enemies’ goals and evaluate them with fairness. If necessary, block them decisively.
- In order to counteract your enemies effectively on a given issue, join the greatest possible variety of likeminded people.
- Wherever possible, show your enemies kindness. Do them as much good you can. At least, sincerely wish them well.
- For the rest, entrust yourself and your enemies to the great Mystery of life that has assigned us such different – and often opposing – roles, and that will see us through if we play our part with love.
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Love begets Love. ???
Hate’s shadow is enlightened by this words’ light. Thanks, they bring me a lot to meditate on.
From “Br D.’s “Love your enemies” …Gratitude summed up in a nut shell
Love in every one of its forms is a lived “yes” to belonging. I call it a “lived yes”, because the very way loving people live and act says loudly and clearly: “Yes, I affirm and respect you and I wish you well. As members of the cosmic family we belong together, and this belonging goes far deeper than anything that can ever divide us.” In an upside-down way, a “Yes” to belonging is even present in hatred. While love says this yes joyfully and with fondness, hatred says it grudgingly with animosity, gall. Still, even one who hates acknowledges mutual belonging. Have there not been moments in your life when you couldn’t say whether you loved or hated someone close to your heart? This shows that hatred is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love (and of hatred) is indifference.
It’s interesting what you said there at the end about the opposite of hate being indifference, and not love as one usually thinks of it. And it reminded me of how most people think of death as the opposite of life when in fact death is the opposite of birth.