Who Is My Enemy?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.  I forgot some important things, like that not all hard news is discouraging news, though it might feel the same at first.  Sometimes we have to hear hard stuff in order to grow!

Discouragement is hard to define, but we all know what it feels like!

10 thoughts on “Who Is My Enemy?”

  1. This is EXACTLY what I need this morning. Thank you, dear sister.

    The true enemy is Satan, and he tries his best to make us think that the ones who love us most are our enemies.

  2. The first thing that came to my mind was the old saying, “Living well is the best revenge.” I know we’re not to seek revenge, but there’s a good point to this. Certainly, if an enemy is intentionally trying to harm us, doing all those things we usually do — getting upset/mad/depressed, brooding, sinking into that “black hole,” defending ourselves to ourselves and to others who don’t need convincing of our innocence in the matter — well, they have their place, but they also serve our enemy’s intentions really well. They distract us (1) from doing what we need to do to defend ourselves from him, and most of all (2) from accomplishing the good, important works in our lives that we do for ourselves, our families, and our friends. Whatever “loving your enemy” means in this context, helping him reach his goals against us isn’t it!

    But my larger point is, as you ask, what if the person who is harming us unintentionally? (And yes, discouragement is genuine harm.) What if we know, or at least believe, or at least want to believe, that he is a good person who really thinks that what he is doing or saying is a positive, helpful thing? Then most of all with a person like that, letting him distract us from what is good and important in our lives is perhaps the worst thing we can do. How will he feel (for all things will be revealed) when he sees what he has done to us? If for any reason I hurt someone — accidentally in the course of my actions, or worse, when I’m really trying to help — the only comfort to me is to hear that the harm I’ve done is minimal, or even being redeemed by God for good purpose.

    Isn’t there something in the martial arts about using an opponent’s strength and moves against him? If we can use the blows to propel ourselves to a better position, have we not both put ourselves in a better position for defense against a real enemy, and saved a well-meaning but clueless friend from the horror of doing us harm?

    I’m not so good at applying this, but when I do, it’s lovely.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, hard to remember when hurt that hurt was likely not the aim of the dealer. Somehow saying they didn’t mean to hurt makes it seem like it shouldn’t hurt, but it’s not so.

      Wow, I’m sure there’s a clearer way to write that!

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Wow, Janet, this is really good. Thank you. It was uplifting in two ways: 1. A fresh reminder to look at discouragement – which seems to be a mainstay sentiment in my life – in a new, more positive way (and thanks, Linda, for the supplementary insights!), and 2. Convicting – how many times does my own selfishness and perfectionism discourage others, particularly those I love most? It pains me to think about that!! But it gives me a better goal to work toward. Very timely thoughts, Janet, thank you again.

    1. Good points! I’d love to come back to this idea in a few months and see what everybody’s learned from applying these ideas. It’s still more of a “good idea” that hasn’t fully worked into my life yet.

  4. In some situations it’s brilliant to use the Göschenen-Airolo principle: the person’s discouraging comment goes in through one ear and goes out through the other ear without leaving a trace. As this way the comment doesn’t have an effect on you and doesn’t cost you any sleep, it makes it easy to continue appreciating the person and it’s reassuring to be in control of the situation.

  5. Haven’t read the other comments yet, just want to jot down my thoughts first, then I’ll go back.

    I think framing “enemy” as discourager is maybe too simplistic, because I really think it depends on WHY the person is discouraging you, and over what.

    For example, I would strongly discourage you from adopting alcoholism as a means of dealing with stress. I would discourage you EVEN if I didn’t have some alternative to encourage you with in exchange (prayer, exercise, journaling…). I would discourage you out of love and care. I would think of my discouragement as “constructive criticism” and try to frame it as kindly as possible, but it would definitely be a firm discouragement!

    But discouragement can also stem from a more selfish place. I could discourage you from pursuing your dreams out of jealousy, insecurity, dislike… you name it, discouragement can also come from a bad intention, even one that is not consciously acknowledged by the discourager.

    People who actively discourage us for bad reasons are to be pitied and loved if we can manage it. Definitely the Smeagols/Gollums of the world. I actually find this type of criticism/discouragement the easiest to deal with, because I realize it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with internal struggles in the discourager.
    Discouragement/criticism from a loving place is SO much harder to deal with! Because it requires a deep soul-search to know if the discourager may actually be right, or if you are going to stick to your guns despite lack of support from people who you know really love you and want the best for you. I think we can love this category of people because we generally already love them, and we can show that love by honestly looking inward and being humble enough to really double check our plans and goals that are being discouraged. Not change them, necessarily, but be able to say, “I’ve really given some thought to your concerns about this endeavor, but I’ve decided to continue. I hope I can still have your support despite your misgivings.”

  6. More thoughts after reading comments:

    I think there is some benefit as well to learning discretion in who we tell about our various plans and projects. I’m an extremely open person, but I also am pretty darned good at letting criticism roll off my back. If a person is thinner skinned, it may be worthwhile to keep the “circle of trust” pretty small.

    I do think developing a thicker skin can be learned. Pulling ourselves out of a certain thought pattern is a skill that needs to be constantly trained. As Christians, we are called to have Hope, and God wouldn’t call us to something that we’re either born with or not. He calls us to work at it through exercising our Will. It’s like faith. He wouldn’t call us to Faith if it were an on/off switch that comes pre-wired at birth. He calls us to Faith because Faith can be trained by the Will as well.

    Linda, I think “Living well is the best revenge” is so true, and can be framed more positively as:
    …”Yes, the true servant unceasingly rebukes the wicked, but he does it most of all by his conduct, by the truth that shines in his words, by the light of his example, by all the radiance of his life.” — St. Francis
    (Originally, I was going to say, “Preach the gospel, use words when necessary” but a google check revealed that whether or not St. Francis actually said that is disputed, and it may be a simplification of the above quote from Francis.)

    I also take comfort in a poem Mother Teresa posted on her wall (original poem by Kent Keith):

    People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
    If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
    If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
    What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
    The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
    In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *