“Normally we divide the external world into that which we consider to be good or valuable, bad or worthless, or neither. Most of the time these discriminations are incorrect or have little meaning. For example, our habitual way of categorizing people as friends, enemies, and strangers depending on how they make us feel is both incorrect and a great obstacle to developing impartial love for all living beings. Rather than holding so tightly to our discriminations of the external world, it would be much more beneficial if we learned to discriminate between valuable and worthless states of mind.” ― Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Transform Your Life: A Blissful Journey
The monthly peace challenge for November is “Love Thy Enemy“. Open your arms to your enemies. Think of a person, a place, a nation, a culture, a religion, a gender, or an ideology that you view as an enemy.
Enemy is a word I don’t like very much. For three days I’ve been trying to think of an enemy to embrace, feeling all smug and lucky that I don’t have one. Yes, I am often in La La Land and oblivious to many things. What exactly does it mean to have enemies?
I looked it up, thinking surely I must have missed the boat here if I can’t be all angry and hateful about something like other normal people. It’s a relativist term for an entity, whether an individual or a group, that is seen as forcefully adverse or threatening.
Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.
In other less wordy words, sometimes the enemy is conjured up in our heads when we see life as black and white, good guys and bad guys, friends and foes. Sometimes it’s even a one-sided concept, and our perceived enemies have no idea they’re causing us frustration and grief. And I guess that’s how a person becomes their own worst enemy.
I don’t like this word because when you label a person or a group or a nation as the enemy, you give them power over you, and you set yourself up to become a victim. You begin to see them as the cause of all your problems. They hurt you, and you want to hurt them back in the same way. You hold a grudge and you want revenge. And suddenly you are no better and no different from the perceived enemy.
My parents taught me to be a good human being and to treat people with love, kindness, compassion and respect. Do unto others, turn the other cheek; practice tolerance, benevolence and forgiveness. Do I do all of these things all of the time? Hell yes!
Okay, no, of course I don’t. I try. But I also battle my fears, anger, misjudgments, narrow-mindedness and intolerance. Some days I win, some days I lose.
There have been some annoying people in my life that I couldn’t stand, who irritated the hell out of me, made me bitter and resentful, spiteful and unkind. I never thought of them as the enemy, but I guess I treated them as if they were exactly that. Am I proud of how I’ve acted? Did it make me happy? Nope.
The bad feelings are destructive and counterproductive and even if I thought I was keeping them all inside, I know they affected the people around me. Sending out those bad vibes is never a good idea because they always bounce right back.
It’s always easier to blame than it is to understand. It takes a lot less time to be mad at somebody than to try to figure out why they act the way they do. But grief and hatred and hurt are the enemies of love and happiness and peace. Every one of us is responsible for how we relate to the world around us. Every relationship is an important part of the whole. We think it doesn’t matter much if we hate something or someone but fear and anger and hatred spread until families and cultures and societies are infused with it. Am I adding to that when I let my bad attitude out to play?
Turning resentment and hatred into acceptance and love is a challenge. I have been challenged my whole life. I think I’m finally winning the race though. It took me three days, after all, to think up an enemy. It’s that little voice in my head that tells me it doesn’t matter what I do or how I feel. Because it does matter. Every one of us matters and we’re all in this together. So let’s be friends.
“In reality, there are no enemies; we’re all souls in growth, waking up”
― James Redfield The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision
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