Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More on Loving Your Enemies

My previous posting began an inquiry into how to respond to “enemies” or “what gets in your way,” but did not continue into the question of what it could possibly mean to “love your enemies.”

The previous posting indicated starting points that might resolve the issue before you ever have to get to the difficult task of loving your enemies.

Perhaps you might discover that what is “getting in your way” is not malicious at all but is actually trying to guide you back to the right path instead of a problematic one.

Perhaps what “gets in your way” is not a conscious force but a mechanical one set in place by well-intentioned systems in our culture. So, it was meant well; and it never was maliciously directed against you, as such. Then a good response might be to work to change this mechanical structure of our culture into one that still preserves the good that the original one was meant to preserve, but without blocking the way of the good, creative energy like yours that was hindered by it. Making these kinds of changes in society is still not an easy task, but at least the theoretical nature of the task is not that hard to understand.

But perhaps what “gets in your way” is conscious and directed against you, but in a misguided way. If you have tested your own motivations and found them to be good, then you can be sure that this “enemy” is not so much malicious as simply misunderstanding of your own noble purposes. The task then is to communicate more clearly why you believe that what you want to do is right and good.

Here’s now where the necessity of “love” comes in. You are not going to be able to communicate very well with someone who is already set against you unless you can learn how to get inside their way of thinking, and understand why they believe they are right. Note that “understanding” doesn’t mean “total agreement.” But to be truly open to understanding a point of view different from your own, you must also be open to the possibility of changing your own mind.

And this intention to try to understand another better is a form of love. This way of assuming that the other is doing the best he or she can, and thinks he or she is right, is a form of love. This way of being open to the possibility that your own view might be limited, and so you might change your mind after gathering more information, maybe even agreeing with them in the end, is a form of love. And your sincere willingness to communicate the goodness of your own intentions to them is also a form of love, because positively asserting your own goodness into the world is a gift to others and a loving thing to do.

This is at least part of what it means to “love your enemies.”

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