[This meditation is a companion to "Who Are Our Enemies?" posted February 27, 2018]
If we believe love is only a feeling, especially one that is warm or gooey and sticky, we won’t stand a chance of learning to love our enemies. We do not have to like them; we’re just asked to treat them lovingly, regardless our actual feelings. To do this, we must first choose to love our enemies and set our intention (maybe daily) to love them. As in anything, asking God’s help when we find we can’t do it ourselves is essential. While we must do our part in choosing and intending to love, we need divine help to become willing and ready to allow God to transform our hearts and minds, which may seem hard, unwilling or resistant to the process.
Awareness: We cannot change what we cannot or will not see. We start by allowing ourselves to notice where we are not loving. We admit it (at least to ourselves) if we treat someone meanly or unkindly. We notice where we treat someone with disdain or condescension or contempt. We admit we’re fighting with someone, if only in our minds—sometimes these folks are long dead and need to be blessed and released for everyone’s sake! We listen to ourselves and our tone of voice as well as hearing harsh or uncaring words belying hard feelings. We catch it when all we do is grumble about other drivers or how someone offended us. We cannot change what we are not aware of. Jesus praised those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Ask for these.
Choosing and intending love: We do not have to like someone to decide to treat them with kindness and respect and dignity. We do not have to like someone to wish well for them. Choosing to behave with generosity, humility, gratitude and compassion are all ways of offering love to another.
Seeing another’s pain: My spiritual director once told me (as we were talking about someone I struggled with regularly) to look at others, especially those who have hurt us, with the soft eyes of Jesus. Look beneath the hurtful behaviors to where the person hurts, perhaps to where the person is a scared little child. Pray into these places with compassion.
Seeing others whole: Imagining others (and ourselves) as whole and healthy can make a big difference in how we treat them. See others (and ourselves) as the creative, loving and gifted human beings we were all created to be. Seeing and naming as much good in another as we can will also help.
“I love you:” When I was on a committee where conflict was built into the structure and purpose, I prayed often to stand in faith and somehow be loving. In a meeting one day I suddenly heard myself start saying (in my mind and heart) “I love you. I love you. I love you.” Every time I was willing and able to do that, I felt myself relax and my face soften out of a defensive expression (glare? grimace? sneer?). I couldn’t see it, but I could surely feel it relax into something at least non-threatening and at best communicating care. Did it change anything but me? I know only that I was able to choose not to escalate the destruction when I could choose intentionally to hold love as the goal.
Blessing our bodies: When we hear ourselves grumbling about aches and pains and symptoms, when we hear ourselves cursing some body part because we don’t find it good enough for some reason, when we heap one more load of abuse on our poor bodies, stop and bless those parts. Lay hands on a particular place in the body and beam love at it or pray blessings and goodness upon it or see it whole and well and happy. Stop fighting with our bodies and breathe God’s love and grace and peace into them with every breath.
These are a few suggestions for ways we can love our enemies. This list is far from exclusive. I can tell you from experience that they all work better when I actually use them. Loving our enemies is a process of having our own hearts and minds transformed by the One who is Love. We progress in fits and starts—and we progress faster when we can love ourselves in the midst of our seeming failure to love.
I would love to hear other’s suggestions for ways to love our enemies. Why not send some of these to the community page? Or send a note to email@example.com and I’ll post suggestions here.