How to Become like your Enemy
It is really quite simple. Follow the type of advice that C.S. Lewis’ literary demon “Screwtape” might have given to his nephew “Wormwood”, a junior tempter in training. Be sure to read to the end of this blog to see the satirical nature of these suggestions.
Be impulsive. Jump quickly into an argument. Practice sound bites that sting your opponent. The more quickly you attack a view that you disagree with, the better! This prevents you from choosing your words carefully, which might make you look weak or uncertain. Even more importantly, reacting keeps you from considering any important points that might soften your already hard-and-fast opinions.
Stay away from people or information with a different perspective from your own. Only hang around those who will support your point-of-view. “Group-thought” has served the escalation of violence around the world for millennium. Who knows? If you make the mistake of getting outside your circle of influence, you might actually start liking people from the other side. This would undermine your whole intention.
Never miss an opportunity to expect the worse in the other person. Without a doubt, they are doing the same with their opinion of you. Gossip widely and even exaggerate what they are doing that could harm you or others. Speak boldly in black-and-white terms using words like “always”, “never”, and “disgusting.” If you really want to become like your enemy, stoke the fires of personal insult and injury.
If you have done the first three steps, you are well on your way to devaluing the person altogether which definitely brings you more in line with your enemy. Start by comparing the strengths of your position (even your personal strengths) against the weakness of the others’ position (and humanity). Once you begin to feel like they do not hurt, or feel, or experience life like you do, then you are almost there.
Congratulations! You’ve arrived at a place where you completely devalue who you see as your “enemy” and don’t really care if they live or die. You have become like your enemy! Now—unless they are taking a different approach—you have both arrived at the same place; a place where hate rules. The irony is, now that you are so much alike, you should be best friends. I gues this may be why the extremes of society, whether far-left or far-right, seem to have so much in common.
On the other hand…
President Lincoln is quoted as saying after a heated debate following the Civil War about crushing the southern states: “Do I not destroy my enemy, when I make him my friend?”
As followers of Jesus, there is still an even better way. We can pause… pray… and turn to scripture to remind us of who we are, and whose we are: we are ambassadors of Christ, especially during dark, chaotic times.
St. Paul writes:
“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26
We can act, instead of react.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
We can engage, instead of huddle.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-24
We can strive to comprehend, not accuse.
Jesus himself tells us:
“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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:43-45
We can value every person as Jesus did, not devalue those we see as enemies.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-36
We can love our enemies, instead of becoming filled with hate.
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
Who knows? Even those with whom you disagree deeply may be striving to act, engage, comprehend, value, and love their enemies, too.
You might even become like each other after all… as friends.