(John Dean's memo to staffers regarding the Nixon Administration's political enemies, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--Page 816, Book of Common Prayer
Now, I am sure most of you are having the response to this post that I would have if I wasn't the one writing it..."Naw! I don't have any enemies. I mean, okay, I'm kinda p.o.'ed at people now and then, and yeah, I have some broken friendships and broken relationships, and yeah, I know at least two people that still probably wish me dead if they saw me on the street...but naw, I don't really have any enemies..."
These days, in our more politically correct world, the word "enemy" is a bad word. It implies global thermonuclear war, or intent to commit murder. But by the dictionary, an enemy is simply, "One who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another; a foe." Simply speaking, an enemy can be something as minor as anyone who stands in the way of our interests or anyone we'd stand in the way of theirs. Granted, most of our enemies are minor, and some are temporary...but yeah, anyone who, on the way to work, we might be talking to ourselves, grousing about that person bugging us, or nosing into our business, or talking trash about us...yeah, that's an enemy.
It's odd. We have no problem saying, "That person is difficult. That person is being oppositional. That person is being obstructive." Yet we can't quite get to the "E" word. My Facebook friend K. Jeanne Person found a great quote from an ancient (1968--that's ancient these days, right) issue of The Living Church--"In flashes of anger, pride, unearthed prejudice, envy, or disappointment, even our dearest friends can be enemies for a moment."
I recently followed a different Facebook conversation where I could tell the person was very wounded by the words of someone, but they insisted, "Oh, I'm not angry." They were wounded enough to make the difference of opinion "Facebook public" and they were poking the fork in it by laying out humorous things they wanted to do to mock the other person's opinion...and I'm thinking, "Naw...you're not angry...not like in your face angry...but you were HURT...and I'm sorry, but sarcastic humor, or snarkiness, or sticking a fork in something, even if it's in a joking fashion...yeah, that IS anger. Just not overt anger. Covert anger."
I know this because one of the things I continue to learn to do better is admit my hurt and let it go rather than cool-headedly "get back" at someone, or "utz" them or their situation.
One of the things I've had to learn to get over myself about is to learn not to dream and scheme in that "revenge is a dish best served cold" sort of way. I am a big one to go out of my way to continually annoy those who have hurt me. If we had a falling out, and you can't stand to see me on the street, I'll wave at you great big. I'll park next to you in the parking lot, I'll make sure I speak to you first on the street; whatever it takes to make you feel grouchy and resentful of our falling out, I'm on it.
But I learned a really good lesson about that.
I once admitted that to someone, that I was like that. Then, as luck would have it, the person I admitted that to, and I, had a falling out. That person's knowledge of this tendency in me has pretty much shot me in the foot for ever reconciling with this person, I think. I believe when I have been earnest in trying to reconcile with that person, their knowledge of my love of utzing is always in the back of their mind, and they can't accept I am being earnest. That facet of myself made me pretty much forever untrustworthy in the eyes of that person.
I would have been better off displaying honest feelings to others when I was hurt. But I couldn't, because I dared not show my vulnerability.
I like this prayer, simply because it doesn't say, "Make them see it my way."
The more I ponder these things, the more I admit I both have enemies, and I am capable of seeing others as enemies, the more I become willing to at least understand why they might see it their way. Reconciliation, it seems, is not for me to necessarily give up my way, but more about letting them have it their way. One of the hardest things I had to do with that situation I told about earlier was to give up trying to get the other person to see it my way. I was just making myself crazy trying, and angry when it wasn't happening. It was only when I began to allow others to see it their way, even if their way meant for the opposite opinion to be that I am an insincere utzer and a sick jerk, that I began to heal. It felt weird, because at first, "heal" meant "to calmly not care." To detach.
Yet, we are called to love our enemies. I had to think about what that meant.
I wanted it to be "we made up." I don't think that is likely to ever happen, after some recent input I had. But it is not an either/or proposition for me to love the person who can't stand me. It does not require me making up with them, and it does not require some weird martyrdom that will only make me resentful. It only requires my willingness to pray for them, to wish the best things of the world for them that I wish for myself, and to wish the joy of a closer relationship with God to enter the other person's life.
Loving my enemies requires learning from my mistakes with this person so I will make fewer ones in the future. Perhaps it is what reconciliation is all about--that we can learn from our mistakes, and the next people we meet won't suffer the same fate in a similar circumstance. Perhaps, "standing reconciled" simply means we stand with new knowledge and a different heart.