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Life That Works: Meeting the Enemy

"I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it." -Voltaire

While it is true that our enemies might well have the first and perhaps even most accurate vision of our faults, their polarized vision of who we are rarely does justice to the complexity that creates enmity. When fear and hurtful intentions are the driver, our perspective is, at best, clouded and unfocused. I try to avoid creating enemies in life. Even when I can justify bad feelings about someone because of things that have been said or done to me, I have found that feeding the flames of anger and revenge only tend to beget more of the same.

I have lived with enough resentment over time to testify to the fact that the only one who is poisoned by my bad feelings is myself. Yet it is true that some never leave the middle school behavior of putting others down to make themselves feel better. Some even make it a life art form with continuously elaborate justifications for ruining other people's lives.

It is hard to offer the benefit of the doubt to people who seem to go out of their way to spread half truths and paint a negative picture of other people. It is like a watching a child's Disney movie, where one character is assigned all of the evil and darkness in the story. Real life is much more complicated and subtle than that. I wonder what motivates this level of unkindness and seemingly utter lack of compassion about the disasters they inevitably create in their wake. It is hard to understand such a total lack of compassion.

But maybe it is compassion that is most necessary with those who make us their enemies. This level of negativity reflects the fear that possesses your foe. Often they will use the same means to frighten you. Abe Lincoln said the best way to deal with you enemy is to make him your friend. Sometimes the wounds are too deep for that, but it's essential to at least see the fear for what it is. Be present enough to keep yourself from just slipping into it and create the space to choose a different path.

Even that sometimes takes more courage than we seem to possess in the moments when we are the one under attack. The only thing to do is pick up our bruised and mud splattered ego and go on our way. People will say what they want; it rarely has anything to do with us. But sometimes when the damages seem extensive, the idea of reciprocal mud slinging is seriously satisfying. This is how kids get their houses covered in toilet paper....