Love your enemies

love your enemies

When my mother was undergoing cancer treatment in the 1990s, she went through all kinds of interesting states of mind, way beyond Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s measly five.  Elisabeth would have been astounded.



One of the most unexpected was the “I’m gonna tell you what I think of you before it’s too late” phase. We discovered that Mom was calling up people from her past and telling them all the things she’d been holding back for decades: how they’d disappointed or betrayed her, how they weren’t good enough for their wives/husbands, how they’d made bad decisions. (Myself, I was surprised that Mom had ever held anything back – she could be a real loudmouth when she was wanted to be – but apparently she’d kept a lot of opinions back after all.)



I am my mother’s son. I am full of grudges and unsettled scores. I am terribly self-righteous, just as she was. I only hope that, as the cancer treatment weakens me, I don’t succumb to Mom’s let-‘em-have-it mentality



This is why I was bemused by something that showed up on my Facebook wall a while back: a serious discussion of why you shouldn’t have enemies. To wit:



  • Enemies take up a lot of your valuable time – whether you’re actually taking revenge, or just thinking about it. (This is true, and I hate the idea of wasting time, especially at this point in my life.)
  • Your enemies probably aren’t worth hating as much as you think they are. (Maybe. Some of mine are pretty loathsome.)
  • Most of the world’s religions tell us to be kind to our enemies.



This last one needs some scrutiny. Certainly Jesus tells us to love our enemies. But the God of the Old Testament certainly didn’t mess around with anyone who got in his way. And many modern Christians seem to act as if they loathe whole squadrons of people.



So what’s an unbeliever to do?



Well, I normally don’t like Saint Paul, but in Romans 12:20 he comes up with the perfect reason to do good to your enemies:



Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.



See? You can make your enemy ashamed of himself by being nice to him. And then, if he doesn’t make friends with you, he presumably goes to hell.



Doesn’t that make you feel better?



It does me a world of good.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

14 Responses to Love your enemies

    Here is (at least what is touted as) some wisdom from Emmet Fox. I can get past the Jesus-y-ness of his work and appreciate (and sometimes use) the messages.

    • Here’s the goal: don’t desire anything. This is T. S. Eliot, but it’s a sort of Buddhist outlook too:

      I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; Wait without love, For love would be love of the wrong thing; There is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

  2. Peggy Cobb says:

    It is NOT about you!! Your enemies can go on and on. Say what they want. Your mom and dad were whatever… Love yourself. Forgive. Have empathy and KNOW that someone else is with you. YOU are loved.

  3. I have definitely collected some enemies along the way and am never any good at all about forgiveness being good for the soul and all that codswallop since some behavior deserves the holding of a grudge. This is not a popular feel good POV. Loved this post!!

    • I spent far too long feeling bad about not liking people, and about people not liking me. Now: screw ’em. If they’re not likeable, and if they’re not nice to me, I can live without ’em.

      • Andrew Lloyd Weber: Why do people take an instant dislike to me?

        Alan Jay Lerner: Because it saves time.

      • “I don’t much care for people anyway, truth be told. That’s my failing and I’ve relied on it for much of my happiness.” Howard Norman in The Bird Artist.

      • Agree completely. I used to waste so much time trying to like unlikeable people. Now I think: why bother?

      • One more quotation (from memory): “In my life why do I give valuable time to people who don’t care if I live or die? why do i smile at people I would rather kick in the eye.” (Not that I ever would.) –The Smiths

      • I love the Smiths. Have you seen the Tumblr blog “This Charming Charlie”? They take panels from classic Peanuts comic strips and replace the dialogue with Smiths lyrics. It works creepily well.

  4. starproms says:

    Yeah! you and me both Loren. How about giving your enemy a drink, but putting it just so nearby that he/she can’t reach it!

  5. starproms says:

    Actually, I think your mum had a good point! Why not say what you really think to people. If they’re horrid, they deserve it. If you’re mistaken, then they have the chance to put you right?

    • Mom really seemed to enjoy herself when she was telling people off. I should try it once or twice.

      • starproms says:

        yes, maybe you should. On the positive side, it would give your ‘enemies’ a chance to defend themselves. I know I bear certain grudges. Perhaps if I told the people, they might explain their actions and then a situation of better understanding could arise? Definitely cathartic, if you go at it in the right way. Have a go and let me know what happens?

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