We make enemies out of other people.
It’s not that hard to do. And it feels like in today’s culture, the one that keeps itself so busy with faster and faster communications, making another person our enemy is something to be proud of.
Roman Catholics make enemies out of women who have had abortions. I read a line in a Roman Catholic discussion group concerning the recent election that went, I know we’re supposed to love one another (blah, blah, blah, blah).
Love is blah. Judgment, now that’s cool.
Republicans make an enemy out of a black man being president. They’re announcing the end of the world. The take-over of our minds by the president. The collapse of all industry. The united hatred of the world for our country.
Reason is blah. Hyperbole, now that’s cool.
Out-spoken gay activists make enemies out of anyone whose move displeases them. A grandmother with a “pro marriage” bumper sticker on her car gets bashed into by someone who thinks that that is an appropriate action of protest. Brad Pitt’s mother receives death threats, as does an openly gay actor who quips that he wouldn’t want to live in a family with two dads.
Respect is blah. Threats, now they’re cool.
It doesn’t matter what side of the line you are on, it appears that condemning, judging, storming one’s beliefs into another person, all of this yelling over hurt emotions is just the right way to be. Some days I dream of putting the haters and yellers on both sides of an argument in the same room and have them expend their emotional energy in a nice, loud, possibly violent manner.
Away from everyone else.
It stands to reason that sooner or later their yelling will stop. And maybe they will come to see that there are better things to focus their energy on.
But that’s all in the general mainstream. That’s our everyday conversation these days.
On a personal level, I realized the other day to my great horror that I have made another person my enemy.
I’ve never done that before. No matter the circumstance, no matter the history. I’m not even good at holding a grudge, let alone letting anger escalate to hardening levels. When I was young, I thought this to be a character flaw: everyone else seemed to be able to hate someone else, complain endlessly about him, resent his every breath.
I could just never get over my seemingly natural tenderheartedness. I thought this meant that I was deficient in some ways.
But time has gone by. A whole lot of time.
And I should have known that I did this. My behavior should have screamed it at me. Looking back, it was so obvious that there could have been a banner planted on either side of a field announcing it.
Julia, you have made this man your enemy.
I have become, as so many of my fellow travelers in this life, a mini-terrorist.
I discovered this when I found myself laughing at the emotional discomfort I caused this man. I found it funny that I had disturbed him.
A little, tiny act of terrorism.
And I was horrified to discover it. Like unearthing a bomb in my backyard. A ticking bomb.
I can remember the time I spent on forgiveness “exercises” for this man. At the time, I thought it had gone smoothly and with little effort.
Again, that should have told me something.
It should have told me that I was not forgiving this man, but was brushing him off my shoulder like a piece of lint. Disposing of him and his actions against me. Cleaning myself of what I saw to be his refuse.
And so I’ve had to turn and reevaluate forgiveness.
The action, ultimately, of giving something to the offender for his pain.
Of going down on one’s own knees and asking for forgiveness.
In this case, what would I be asking forgiveness for? For not making a sincere attempt to express my distress at the way he treated me?
For “excusing” his behavior because of his lack of (fill in the blank)? No intelligence. No understanding. No credibility. No balance. No grace.
For a complete judging on my side, a complete condemnation?
That’s really the key to making someone else your enemy: condemnation. A complete closing of the door to the relationship. A sealing off of any means of touching.
And being glad of it.
The last time I was even in the same room with this man I turned so that my back and side was to him at all times.
That should have told me something.
A whole lot of something.
But it didn’t.
Because hard-heartedness, it seems, justifies its own behavior.
So the challenge now is to go back and re-understand the process of forgiving. It’s so much different when I don’t want to forgive this person. When I want to write him off and out of my life. And gloat that I have accomplished this.
It is a backwards way of thinking when success means division and loss. With disrespect, discourtesy, and ingratitude.
When success means going against God.
With betraying the teachings of Jesus.
How grateful we should be that consistently and to the end, our Lord showed us the way of putting aside our terrorist leanings. Our excluding others from our love and understanding. Our pride in our hatred.
It’s like an undercurrent that catches us up and carries us away.
It’s amazing that we are given, every moment of our lives, a hand to save us, to pull us back from drowning.
Christianity is truly amazing in its gifts. In its teachings. In its expressions of love.
And we are such inadequate vessels for all of it. For even a little bit of it.
We are like little ants carrying the weight of the world on our backs.
And somehow managing to do it.
In spite of ourselves.