Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Loving Your Enemy

--by Brother David Steindl-Rast (Aug 28, 2017)

To love our enemies does not mean that we suddenly become their friends. If it is our enemies we are to love, they must remain enemies. Unless you have enemies, you cannot love them. And if you have no enemies, I wonder if you have any friends. The moment you choose your friends, their enemies become your own enemies. By having convictions, we make ourselves the enemies of those who oppose these convictions. But let’s be sure we agree on what we mean by terms like Friend, Enemy, Hatred, or Love.

The mutual intimacy we share with our best friends is one of the greatest gifts of life, but it is not always given when we call someone a friend. Friendship need not even be mutual. How about organizations like Friends of Our Local Library? Friends of Elephants and of other endangered species? Friendship allows for many degrees of closeness and takes many different forms. What it always implies is active support of those whom we befriend, engagement to help them reach their goals.

With enemies it is the exact opposite. After all, the very word “enemy” comes from the Latin ”inimicus”, and means simply “not a friend”. Of course, not everyone who is not a friend is therefore an enemy. Enemies are opponents – not opponents for play, as in sports or games, but in mutual opposition with us in matters of deep concern. Their goals are opposed to our own highest aspirations. Thus, out of conviction we must actively try to prevent them from reaching their goals. We can do this lovingly, or not – and thus we find ourselves head-on confronted with the possibility to love our enemies.

Love in every one of its forms is a lived “yes” to belonging. I call it a “lived yes”, because the very way loving people live and act says loudly and clearly: “Yes, I affirm and respect you and I wish you well. As members of the cosmic family we belong together, and this belonging goes far deeper than anything that can ever divide us.” In an upside-down way, a “Yes” to belonging is even present in hatred. While love says this yes joyfully and with fondness, hatred says it grudgingly with animosity, gall. Still, even one who hates acknowledges mutual belonging. Have there not been moments in your life when you couldn’t say whether you loved or hated someone close to your heart? This shows that hatred is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love (and of hatred) is indifference.

Loving our enemies is an ideal for human beings of any spiritual tradition. Mahatma Gandhi practiced it no less inspiringly than St. Francis. But it calls to mind the saying of Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 3:43f) And this, in turn, calls to mind what G. K. Chesterton said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”— Difficult, yes, but eminently worth trying, especially in a world torn by enmity.

by Brother David Steindl-Rast from this article.

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Previous Reflections:

On Aug 25, 2017 xiaoshan wrote:

Walk with me
Break some bread with me
Enemy, why can't you live with me
Who are you
What did I do to you
Wish I know 
Why can't I live with you
We are all born the same
Then we separate
Then the world falls apart
And blame turns to hate
We cannot contemplate
How far apart we are
There is always a way
To that place in your heart

Hated one
Just put down your gun
Done is done
Why can't we live as one
Feel no shame
The air we breath is the same
Heal the pain 
Why do we live in vain

On Aug 25, 2017 susan schaller wrote:

 Slowly, in life I learned and am learning that everyone - every person - is a mirror. The person who seems most different from me I learn the most from, about me.  An enemy is someone whose story you haven't heard.  Whenever I take time to listen and look past the differences, I always find more similarities.  Stories connect us human to human in order to see "WE" instead of "us" and "them."  Embrace diversity to achieve unity.

On Aug 26, 2017 david doane wrote:

Loving your enemy means to me that I firmly, honestly, and directly express my disagreement or objection in a way that is kind and compassionate, devoid of anger, hostility, and violence.  Dealing with Trump and many others in our society is a challenge for me.  I'll catch myself saying or thinking that I hate him or them, and I stop myself from going there and instead say or think that I strongly disagree.  I haven't prayed for him or them, but I will, though probably for their enlightenment -- thanks for the reminder.  What helps me practice 'love your enemy' is knowing that we are one and knowing that anger, violence, and hostility are not necessary and are destructive.  People like Gandhi and Martin Luther King were correct that light, not darkness, overcomes darkness, and love, not hate, undoes hate.  Forgiveness, not revenge, heals.  Compassionate objection and dialogue, not war, is loving your enemy and brings peace.  Namaste, that is, I recognize the one divine in you and me, is loving your enemy.

On Aug 26, 2017 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 " Love in every one of its forms is a lived "yes" to belonging. I call it a "lived yes", because the very way loving people live and act says loudly and clearly, " Yes, I affirm and respect you and I wish you well. As members of the cosmic family we belong together, and this belonging goes far deeper than anything that can ever divide us." These words written by Brother David Steindal-Rast resonate deeply with me.

All of us want and yearn to be deeply connected with each other. Life begins with connectedness and grows like a plant by remaining connected with supporting and nourishing elements. In this process we do not learn to hate. As we grow we acquire beliefs that create two groups, in-group and out-group, we and they, us and them- friends and enemies. These groups are the byproducts of human conditioning. However, there is the "being" part in  the human being.This is composed of empathy, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude and love. All  wisdom traditions teach us, urge us, inspire us to keep the heart and soul open to relate to each other as loving neighbors, as brothers and sisters in spite of our differences.

There have been living examples of people all our the world who have risen above the the divisive ways of thinking and behaving and there lies the hope for us as human beings to survive and thrive.

Everyday I run into people whom I know who respect and affirm racial, ethnic religious and political differences without punching each other and hating each other. And I also run into people who hold strong prejudice and hatred for people who are different from them.

May we keep our mind and heart open to cultivate connectedness within ourselves and with others in our life!


Jagdish P Dave

On Aug 28, 2017 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 Love you enemy to me means seeing that underneath their anger or maltreatment is often fear and under the fear is hurt. Allowing oneself to sift through the anger, fear to get to the hurt often reveals common values and shared humanity. I've been seeking to hold this space of compassion for all for quite some time and especially since our election here in the US. I am saddened to see dear friends say hateful words of their opponents rather than see the human in front of them. I have posted as much as I can about holding compassion and understanding the hurt that lies underneath the hate. Whew. I have been persecuted on all sides for holding this view. I have been told my compassion for both sides somehow diminishes my taking a stand against the danger of hate. I am not sure I agree. I think hate is not the answer ever. I do think seeking to understand is. What helps me practice is what I shared: see beneath the hate or the difference to what may be hurt or pain and see the human under it all. Find the heart. 

On Aug 29, 2017 adam wrote:

 enemy? which enemy? who are your enemies? are you amarican cowboys regarding everyone else as your enemy??? lol

On Aug 29, 2017 Maryanne de Prophetis wrote:

 I recently heard a sermon by the now deceased Master Shinjo Ito, co-Founder of Shinnyo-en, in which he emphatically expressed the need to unconditionally accept all people, all sentient beings.  That this total acceptance is our non-dualistic reality.  He did not say that this was easy, but a purifying practice.

On Aug 30, 2017 patjos wrote:

I Love your response Kristin Pedemonti.
No one says that it is easy to do this. At no time are we expected to be anything more than Human, certainly not ‘perfect’! Loving our enemies doesn’t mean that we never hate, just that we are quicker to forgive perhaps. It doesn’t mean that we agree with the one who hates, or disagree with the one who takes a less loving stand against the one who hates, perhaps it just means that we are taking a different, more loving (less hating) stance – and that through Grace! If we have hateful words for our opponents, then these too must come to the surface in our lives in order for us to be aware of them, perhaps then seeing our true selves and perhaps in time acknowledging that we are less than perfect too.
I found Jagdish P Dave’s response very helpful too, saying that “However, there is the "being" part in the human being.This is composed of empathy, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude and love…”
And I thank you Susan Schaller, for the reminder that “An enemy is someone whose story you haven't heard” Beautiful!

On Aug 31, 2017 Ginny wrote:
We think we know what love is, but not until we encounter hate in another do we really know what love is. This is give even when we are being hated for the love we have for all--even our enemies. To know that we really aren't separate beings. No, it isn't easy.  It is painful to die to our illusions of separateness and superiority.  But with courage and community, we can live and pray our way into learning this new way of being in the world.

On Sep 4, 2017 Harpreet wrote:

 Upon reflection, I feel that an "Enemy" would be one whose point of view I have not taken the time to know, and reflect  upon the fact that we are all come from the same source and so the "enemy" is no different than me, expect for having different wounds and heartaches growing up and therefore developing a different point of View than my viewpoint.

On Nov 4, 2018 king wrote:


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