Loving Your “Enemy”- Not Just an Expression

Alright, this is one of the biggest challenges I’m facing right now, especially in terms of growth as an individual. I believe in being both retrospective and introspective, constantly reflecting on who we are so that we can work towards being a better version of yourself. To be clear, I don’t want to be improve myself to stroke my ego. No, I want to improve so that I can be the best person I can be for my family, friends, and society. I want to say and do everything patiently, honestly, and kindly. However, sometimes those values clash with each other and I sometimes find myself dangerously close to becoming a contradiction.

I remember skimming a little book at the bookstore about hugging a porcupine. Your “enemy”, or someone who is opposed to you and may be working against you, is like a porcupine who has his/her guard up because he/she feels threatened. Usually the porcupines may feel threatened and angry at who they view as their enemy due to their own insecurities and fears. But instead of letting the porcupines be, our job is to try to disarm them with love, patience, and understanding. We don’t have to be the best of pals with our porcupine, but we can at least make him/her feel less threatened and replace those negative feelings with acceptance and love.

Bob Goff said that if we only love people who are easy to love, we make our faith look like a negotiation. I agree with this statement because if God only loved those who are easy to love, where would the world be right now? Now, I am in no way comparing myself to God, but I am after his heart and therefore will strive to love my porcupine.

The key to accepting and loving the porcupine is through understanding why he/she is the way they are. This includes being open to appreciating their history and background; people are comprised of their individual experiences, challenges, and perspectives. Sure, everyone can work on themselves to become better, but how do people initially become who they are? Everyone has a story, and though I believe our stories are not to be used as excuses for preserving our own faults, it helps us to understand it.

It’s important to note that I am not going to disarm my porcupine by reflecting his/her actions back onto him/her, especially since that’d be childish and immature. If you fight fire with fire, don’t expect the fire to become anything but more destructive. What’s worse is that you’ll be burning other trees and hurting other lives along the way. Instead, you have to find it within yourself to be patient, focusing on your understanding of why they may be the way they are and why they may dislike you the way they do.

However, your job isn’t to make them like you, it’s to make them feel loved. It doesn’t matter if they reciprocate peace with your efforts; all that matters is that they know you are not going to compete against them, that you only want the best for them, and that despite everything, they indeed are loved. Sometimes these values seem impossible to carry out or maintain, but I find that it helps to remember these 6 points:

  1. Don’t hold any grudges and don’t expect anything. Your porcupine owes you nothing.  We shouldn’t give love with the intention of receiving it.
  2. Remember that they are a person too, that, like everybody, has their own insecurities and fears. Nobody is perfect and we shouldn’t require them to be.
  3. We really should strive to give them grace. In other words, forgive that porcupine if it stabs you with one or multiple of its spikes, even if they are stabbing you from behind. Realize that though they may lash out at you, anger comes from pain.
  4. Reach out and be honest. Don’t pretend that there’s nothing wrong, recognize the static in your relationship and genuinely express how you want to make things better. The follow up to that is to actually try, no matter the response.
  5. You don’t have to be their best friend, but it’s going to be easier on you and on them if your own intentions are nothing but pure.
    • Remember that you are not superior to them in any way.
    • It takes way more energy to hate, even though it may feel harder to love.
    • In the end, even if you do not win them over,  you will have no regrets for trying to be a genuinely good and loving person to them.
  6. Try not to doubt yourself throughout all of this. They may not believe in you and may be bitter towards you, but that doesn’t mean you should take it personally and start to doubt yourself along the way. Know who you are and then who you are to them will matter much less.

Now, regardless of the points I’ve made in this post and how much I believe in them, I still struggle with my porcupine. I realize that the way to keep myself grounded is to think cognitively and refocus my perspectives. When I’m hurt, angry, or annoyed, I remind myself of my main motivation behind all of this: to make sure my porcupine feels loved, even if that love is unrequited.

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