Do You Know Your Enemy?
June 30, 2010

Do not be too quick to assume your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are a savage. Or perhaps he is afraid of you because he feels that you are afraid of him. And perhaps if he believed you were capable of loving him he would no longer be your enemy.

Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and God’s kindness and God’s patience and mercy and understanding of the weaknesses of men.

Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.

–T. Merton

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When I first read those lines a year or two ago, I had other people in mind. I envisioned myself saying those words to them, calling out the error of their ways. It’s easy to do that, especially when I’ve been on a journey away from the established traditions that raised me. It’s easy to take every opportunity to snap at those who I may see as hypocrites in religion or those that I feel may be holding us back from “progress.”

Now I’m trying to envision someone saying those things to me. Yes, I’ve had many call out the error of my ways. It’s sort of been a theme of my life for some time now. But this is different. It doesn’t deal with belief or doctrine. It deals with behavior. It deals with the ways I choose to  see the world and others around me.

So instead of “convicting” others of such things as “coldness and avarice…mediocrity and materialism…sensuality and selfishness,” I’m trying to recognize where those elements might have a home in me. Instead of assuming people see me or my views as the enemy (although that may be the case), I’m trying to recognize when I see “them” as my enemy. How do I speak of them when they’re not around? How do I speak to them when they are around?

There’s a balancing point somewhere in all this. What’s the  optimum tension between staying quiet with a humble, open mind, and not hiding my own truths? (To be sure, there’s a difference between “not hiding” and “asserting.”) And to be honest, I’m tired of trying to find the wrong in others, and looking for holes in arguments. It just takes too much energy.

And in that sense, my enemy is often myself, sapping my energy for the sake of an endless war.

So maybe I can try not “knowing” the weaknesses of my enemy, and instead try to know them as individuals. Which just happens to be what I expect of them.

My spiritual exercise for now is to just go with the flow, staying content in my own truths, assuming no ill of anyone else, and remaining responsible for my own words and actions.

But that’s hard.

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In Today’s News…
April 28, 2010

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“…How does God choose? Whose prayers does he refuse?…”

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Why do we say, “God answered our prayers” when results favor us, and that “Evil attacked us” when they don’t?

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What happens…

When two of us on opposing teams pray to win the same game. When two of us on opposing political sides pray for God to solve the nation’s problems, or for our candidate to win. When two of us on different sides of the ocean pray for God to keep us safe from our enemies, or give us victory over them. When two of us pray for God to bring justice, when each of us have differing definitions of that word.

Or when two of us pray for forgiveness. When two of us stop praying, get off our offended asses, and go say we’re sorry. When two of us step down from our soapboxes, look at each other in the eyes, and listen to their story. When two of us see the other as a hurting, scared person and not an agenda, a philosophical position, a religion, a political party, a team, a lifestyle, a socioeconomic segment, or a target market. When two of us stop praying — or protesting — for world peace and start making it happen, beginning with those right across from us. When two of us…  You fill in the blank. (Then start trying to live it.)