During this past week or so, I have been contemplating the meaning of the commandment / expression: “love your enemies”. Obviously not meant to be a simple task, nonetheless, there is a lot to think about regarding the meaning of this phrase. Do you have enemies? If you live in society with other human beings, I am hard pressed to think that you have none.
Jealousy, low self-esteem, life styles based on material acquisitions and social status as well as rampant competition and individualism all make having multiple enemies a given. Even if you have conquered your own feelings of envy and do not desire to acquire material goods, collect facebook likes, attempt to build an empire or aspire to keep up with an assortment of Joneses, you still cannot control what others feel about you at work, at home, or online, and what they might do about it. It is also interesting to contemplate how the isolation instigated by on-line relationships affects how people “care” about one another. The increase in cyber bullying and violence among girls in particular seems to indicate that it is easier and more liberating to hate others because of the protective anonymity of the Internet.
In fact, it is a common psychological attitude to hate, envy, or resent other people for who they are, what they have, or what we may or may not have or be in comparison to others. Few people are able to live peacefully within their own self, immune from the temptation of comparing oneself with others or needing the approval or love from others. It is this poison which feeds hate and fear, and which brings about emnity.
Having many years of experience, since my earliest days on this planet as a child of being hated, resented when I refused to conform or be controlled by even my own parents, I must admit that I have made many enemies. In spite of my own desire to cultivate love – of myself and of others, as well as to dedicate myself to a greater understanding of myself and of the human heart, I must admit that living with my fellow human beings is a minefield difficult to navigate in the best of times. I have read about forgiveness as a process primarily dedicated to the salvation of one’s own life and happiness. Letting go, letting live…these are all philosophies that I have embraced and explored. So much so, that I no longer have any contact with my surviving parent and siblings.
Although I have been cut off by my family and have been transformed into a villain in their eyes, I do not hate or resent them. But do I love them? I don’t really know if I do or if I don’t. I don’t know if I am able to love them or even desire their love and approval for myself. Sometimes my heart is saddened by the lack of contact, and I do admit to thinking about my mother, in particular. Less about my sister and brother. How can I truly love people who do not care about me? And what type of love is meant by the phrase “love your enemies”? Is it the love of friendship? Is it a heartfelt love, in which the warmth of joy washes over and through your entire being and body? I feel I would have to become a saint in order to feel those feelings about my mother, my sister, or my brother. Can an absence of hatred or resentment be called love?
I have also made enemies in the workplace, and I feel paradoxically, that it is more difficult for me to find forgiveness or peace in my heart after being bullied, hounded, and treated unfairly by managers and bosses, as compared to the unfair behavior I have been subjected to by my family. Perhaps the reason for this response lies within the many years of thought, survival, and reflection following this unfair familial treatment. My feelings of resentment and disappointed expectations have burned away like fog as the sun lifts on a hazy morning. Time has a way of diluting emotion, of tiring a burdened heart into release. I have also learned over time to find joy and solace in myself, in the world, and in the process of my self unfolding to the Universe. Otherworldly, invisible beings are my friends and protectors, and these have replaced my physical, mortal family in my heart and mind.
If my mother were to approach me with words of kindness, if she were to tell me she was sorry for how she has treated me over the course of my lifetime, I know a floodgate of tears would overwhelm me. I might even lose consciousness, having held together my life and identity by forcing myself into a dearth of expectation from other human beings. The lack of love from people has characterized my life, and although I have worked hard to love myself and be grateful for my destiny, it is challenging for me to open my heart to other people in more than a superficial manner.
Back to the question of loving my enemies…Perhaps if my attitude towards the world is a loving one, and the energy that I contribute to the world in my daily thoughts, actions and interactions are based on light and love…then perhaps this love will one day touch and reach those who are afflicted by darkness and negative emotions. Jesus’ commandment to love one’s enemies (and I am examining this from a practical point of view – how to live my own life as a human being, all religion put aside) seems to indicate that we should treat these enemies as we would like to be treated. We all tend to mistreat ourselves and even hate ourselves, verbally, mentally, and emotionally more than anyone else would consciously admit. And so, if we put our efforts into loving ourselves, making peace with ourselves, and eliminating the enemy of self-criticism and self-hatred from our own inner landscapes, then the possibility of love, or at least kind tolerance for those who persecute or reject us will be possible.
So my own answer to my own question is this: be a source of peace and love, starting at home with myself, and perhaps, there is a small chance that this loving energy will expand and resonate in the world, touching everyone and everything with which this energy comes into contact.