you’d be so easy to love
so easy to idolize all others above
so worth the yearning for
so swell to keep every home fire burning for
and we would be so grand at the game
carefree together that it does seem a shame
that you can’t see your future with me
cause you’d be, oh, so easy to love
1936 – Cole Porter
Let’s be honest. Even those we find the most loveable – our children, our spouse, our close friends – can sometimes do things to hurt us and make us wonder why we love them like we do. Love can hurt. So, what are we to make of the Biblical imperative to love our enemies? Our enemies?
Matthew 5:43-44: “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.” (NRSV)
One of the best ways to be able to love your enemies is to not have any.
Seeing another as a foe gives all the power to that person. Surrendering the hurt, salving the wound, moving onward and upward, is spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthier. It can take time. It should take time.
Few among us have true enemies – a neighbor who is harassing us, an ex who is stalking us, a supervisor bent on preventing us from earning a living. Many of us have perceived enemies. Just because someone does not agree with you politically does not mean that person is necessarily your enemy. Just because you are no longer married to someone does not necessarily mean that person is your enemy.
Another word for enemy may be “other.” It is easy to love those like us. It is easy to love the familiar. It is more difficult to love the other – those not like us. Those who do not think like us. Those who do not live like us. Those who do not vote like us. Those who do not worship like us (or who do not worship at all).
If we are all made in the image of the Holy, how can we do anything but love one another?
We must learn to forgive ourselves and we must spread this forgiveness to others.
Hate, like envy, is counterproductive.
When faced with an adversary, I first try to determine where the person is coming from. Is it from a place of hurt? Of anger? Of ignorance? Next I try to depersonalize the situation. It is probably not about me per se; I just happen to be there. I listen before I speak. When you are listening, you are not thinking about what you are going to say. I try to find places of common ground. I ask questions to find out why the person believes what they believe. Is it due to some personal experience? Is this what they were taught?
If, after all this, we are still miles apart in whatever it is that makes us adversaries, that may be where we stay. That does not mean we need depart in a place of hate, however.
I am not naïve, nor have I been spared from some really nasty people, yet I do not hate anyone. To do so would be to remain a captive of those who have hurt me. I am not captive; I am FREE.
Dear Holy Mother & Father,
We know not everyone will be for us all the time. Help us recognize this and work together with those with whom we hold differences. Let us see the holy in one another. Help us love ourselves and forgive ourselves and help us love and forgive others.
This post is part of the February Synchroblog: Loving Our Enemies. Please visit these other posts:
- Todi Adu – Love is Your Weapon; Fight for Love
- Carol Kuniholm – Circles of Love
- K. W. Leslie – Love Your Enemies
- 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?