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Loving Your Enemies

By Andrew Schneider

Love your enemies as yourself is good psychological advice as well as sound spiritual counsel. You might not want to admit that you have enemies, but we all do. A friend is someone you like, while one who is not a friend is someone you do not like - perhaps because you do not know them. The word 'enemy' comes from the Latin in + amicus (not friend). The root of amicus (friend) is amare, 'to love.' So a friend is someone you love, and an enemy is someone you do not love. An enemy is someone who represents something negative within yourself that you do not know or do not accept. An enemy is someone on whom you project some unconscious aspects of yourself. You cannot like or love someone you do not know. In order to love your enemy you have to know them, and in order to know them you have to know yourself enough so as not to project onto them aspects of your shadow self.

I recently spent several hours in a government office in a developing country trying to get some paperwork done. I was going through an inner struggle about the real situation I was in. I found myself alternating between thoughts of criticism about the inefficiency the clerks were demonstrating, and thoughts of me admitting that I did not understand why they acted the way they did. I wanted things to proceed more quickly and I could see how that could easily be done. I was projecting my mentality, expectations and attitudes onto the situation. On the other hand, these people had been doing this work for years in a culture and in a government department that was unknown to me. There was no way I could understand without learning much more than what I knew. But the situation did not lend itself for teaching me what I did not know.

So often this is the kind of situation we find ourselves experiencing. We do not understand, and the situation does not lend itself to be understood at the time. And whenever we do not understand we always project our own thoughts and feelings about what we want and what we think.

Projection is never about the situation, so it never reveals any further understanding to us. Projection is about ourselves. It comes from an unconscious place within ourselves where we feel unfulfilled or lacking in some way. That is, we want something and therefore impose our feelings and thoughts on a situation through uninformed judgement, criticism or making demands. It is very easy to make enemies in this way.

Whenever we criticise or make demands based on personal desires, we alienate others. They do not feel loved or appreciated by us. And we obviously do not love or appreciate them. Anyone we meet - even in places like government offices - can be a friend, someone to love. But it takes an effort when they are different from us - when they act or behave differently, when they look different, when they have different beliefs or lifestyles, or when they do not meet our expectations.

We must make an attempt to understand. If we do not succeed in gaining accurate understanding with our minds, we can then approach them in other ways. Understanding is also possible with the heart. The heart accepts; it does not judge. When we know something with our heart what we know is that there is a cause why something is the way it is, and that cause is valid. The heart accepts the limitations of a person or situation and values whatever efforts are being made. The heart is altruistic and therefore accepting and tolerant of others. It is not preoccupied with self-centered interests.

When we open our heart to another we can transcend our emotional reactions and self-centered desires. Often, however, this is not easy because we feel those emotions so strongly. One of the qualities that turns on the heart significantly and strongly is appreciation. Appreciation is not an emotion that arises spontaneously, but a soul quality that we can choose. The more often we choose to be appreciative the easier this choice becomes and the more frequently is our heart open to give and receive love.

Heart is a word that refers to many different levels of our being. Essentially, it is the love aspect of soul, capable of making direct, intuitive contact. Soul love is not emotional; it is highly impersonal and intelligent, capable of grasping the essence without any projection on our part. When we activate this centre through choosing to appreciate we simultaneously activate the physical heart's intelligence which then resonates the brain's intelligence, bringing our whole being into alignment with soul, with appreciation, with love. In this state of love we accept ourselves. In this state we then love our enemies because we have made a connection with their soul. The enemies are now friends because of our heart-centered choices.

1. What situations or people do you find difficult to appreciate?
2. What expectations or projections on your part get in the way of appreciating them?
3. With eyes closed, and in a relaxed meditative state, focus on your heart and the quality of appreciation. When you have it, then visualize someone whom you have difficulty seeing as a friend, and direct this appreciation toward them.

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