Have Compassion for your Enemies

Any of us who have lived life have experienced the intense aches of the heart.  This is a part of the slow and sometimes painful process of moving from child to adult.  Unfortunately in the process of our failed projects, are broken relationships, and our mistakes of character, we can form what hyperbole would refer to as “enemies.”

The temptation to think of the world in these terms – of divided between friends and enemies – is an incredibly immature and unrealistic approach.  It causes far more trouble than good.  Why then is it so tempting?

The insecurity we tend to have in early adulthood for our own sense of self, our purpose, and our place in the world, gives way to broad generalizations about other people.  We engage in one dimensional estimations of people’s motivations and character.  Suddenly, it becomes easy to see someone as out to get us.

The compassionate communication movement is a very different approach.  First, we remember that all people have the same needs.  Second, we need to come to understand that people are acting in ways to best attempt to satisfy their basic needs.  In general, it is irrational to ever believe that someone is motivated by some kind of specific malice or desire to cause us harm.  When we come to understand and accept that our “enemies” are fellow travelers whose humanity is of an exact equal inherent worth of our own – then we can begin to heal.

What this doesn’t mean is that all relationships are healthy.  Sometimes, people are incompatible in their temperaments, their values, and their course of action.  What we can learn, however, is that someone else’s incompatibility with our own life does not mean that they have somehowrejected us in any meaningful way.

If we are going to survive as a species we have to overcome the impulse to control.  We have to be willing to accept people as possessing a “will.” We must let them choose the direction and values that will define their lives.  As soon as we begin attempting to remake other people in our own vision, we begin to try and control them.  Rather than controlling, I advocate seeking to sincerely affect and be affected by others.  The difference is that in framing my action as an attempt to affect you rather than control you I am acknowledging the validity and final right of your own personhood to design and live your life.  I am not trying to subvert your will for my own.

The reason for this tangent is that I think much of the creation of our illusory belief in “enemies” comes from failed attempts to control and be controlled.  We seem to take it as a personal rejection of the highest caliber when someone walks away from us or walks away from being remade in our own values.  This is their sacred right.  It is also your own.

So rather than lashing out at other people who we have labeled “enemy.”  Rather than feeling justified in attacking or belittling them with our language and our actions, we must seek instead to feel compassion for them – even when they do not choose to do the same.

If someone attempts to cause us harm, or successfully causes us harm, the best and most profitable course of action (once the harm has been restricted or restrained) is to feel forgiveness and compassion for the misguided motive that caused this person to act in a destructive way.  We must recognize that their desire to cause us harm comes from pain.  Somewhere, amid the web of justifications and real or unreal subtextual constructs, a person came to feel little – they felt ignored – they felt attacked – and they thought they were backed into a corner.

These are the situations that cause ordinary people to lash out against other individual human beings.  It comes from insecurity, from fear, and from pain.  In recognizing this fact, we must also recognize that in those same circumstances we may feel impulses toward a similar behavior.  In other words, the behavior that caused your “enemy” to cause you harm probably comes from an internal source that is in no way different from the same internal forces and impulses that you yourself possess.

Empathy for your fellow human’s situation, is the only just recourse.

Additionally, when we attack or cause harm to another human being – the action poisons us.  We may feel guilt, or begin to have doubts about our own justifications for that course of action.  Violence (in communication and physical action) are never satisfactory ways to achieve a desired end.  The utilization of violence always harms the person who utilizes it as their tool.  It may not affect them immediately, or even noticeably, but it shall affect them none-the-less.

As such, you should empathize with the pain they may feel.  They made a mistake, as we all do, and it is only appropriate to try and wish them well.

Feel compassion for your “enemies.”  Eventually they’ll cease being enemies in your mind.  They will become valuable human individuals.  Beings, not un-like yourself.  You now walk the path to eventually, even calling them “friend.”