Love Your Enemies: A huge leap to emotional neutrality

Enemies.  “Does it count as saving someone’s life if you just refrain from killing them?”  

I laughed at this meme on Gina Valley’s Instagram.  Now I’m not plotting murder or mayhem, but several times a day, the TV spews felony stupidity that deepens our national divide. Who wants to love their enemies?  “Not I,” said the Little Red Hen.

This is when Christianity is a burden, or for that matter, the noble tenets of all faiths that demand we put aside hurts, betrayal, or deep mistrust and be kind to those we do not like. It’s heavy cargo detailed in the Bible, Romans 12:20, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

The Apostle Paul used the metaphor of burning coals to signify repentance. Historically, a basin of burning charcoal was carried on one’s head as an Egyptian ritual for penitence, according to theologist Paul Meyer, in a 1988 Bible commentary.  One realizes, with shame, the terrible consequences of actions, and decides to change.  Kindness from those aggrieved, according to Jesus, speeds along that process.

This is where “knowing better” is a weight. Nowadays everyone is angry and tolerance is scarce.  It’s a breeze to hatchet reputations on social media. Read the vitriolic comments to blogs, tweets, and articles and it would seem world peace, like the Black Rhino, is extinct. 

So who can pull us back from the brink?  Our better selves (and if I root around, I might find her inside of me somewhere).

For a moment, forget about politicans, celebrities, and others most easy to hate from afar.  Let’s keep it personal.  Who is the one person who has hurt you deeply and inflames fantasties of revenge? Well, that’s the one to work on. 

I was in an abusive relationship in my 20’s. I’ve evolved from hoping-a-bus-hits-him-tomorrow to releasing vengeful thoughts. It took years of awareness to realize how much anger fed my psyche. One day the brute popped up on Facebook with a summary of his married life and kids. After my initial shock of seeing his name again, I chose not to respond.  He reacted to my silence by berating me, but what shocked me more was my lack of anger, just a neutral thought, “Goodby and good luck. You are so in my distant past.”

Disengagement would not have been possible without spiritual help through the years. Faced with a chance, I had no need for revenge or even an exchange.  Offer dinner? No, but the absence of resentment is a huge leap.

It was a worthwhile journey from seething unforgiveness to a negativity-free zone. It is my belief that Someone Higher has all the details and is capable of omniscient perfect judgment, and I’m cool with the schedule.

“Does it count as saving someone’s life if you just refrain from killing them?”

My answer is yes, you are saving your own.

This column ran in The Patriot Ledger and nationally through GateHouse Media on Feb. 25, 2019.

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Suzette Standring

SUZETTE MARTINEZ STANDRING is a nationally syndicated columnist with GateHouse Media. Her two award winning books, The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op-Ed Columnists (2014) and The Art of Column Writing (2008) are used in journalism courses such as Johns Hopkins University. Suzette is a past president of The National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and the host of It’s All Write With Suzette, a cable TV show about writing. Visit www.readsuzette.com or email suzmar@comcast.net
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