Monday, May 10, 2010

Should we really Love our Enemies?

Stabbing death of Julius Caesar in Roman senate

Although it is noble and spiritually high-minded to love those who hate us and those who wish to do us harm, I believe that in real life it is not feasible and rather impractical to downright difficult and self-destructive to actually do so. There is no doubt that one ought to love one's friends, family and neighbors, and even broader speaking the “whole gamut of humanity.” But does everyone deserve our love, do they merit it or can everyone profit from it; from our own perspective would it be advisable for us to love them all, including the wicked?

Loving one's enemies may sound good in theory and on paper and from the mouth of spiritually elevated and enlightened people, but it also depends on who and what kind of deeds of wickedness we are talking about. Would you love the man who raped your daughter or the serial killer who took the life of your son? Would you actually love the person who gleefully and unscrupulously tries their best to make you fail in life? Would you love those who commit genocide and indiscriminately kill women and children?

The problem I have is the choice of the word itself: love. As a rule, I do not think that love should be necessarily merited or conditional, meaning “I love you because you do this or that for me” or that love even needs to be reciprocal or mutual (who would love their teenage children then?). When it comes to the wicked, I think we should try to understand them, to get to the source of their pain, suffering and frustration, and we should have compassion, however difficult that may be, and tell ourselves that they are mentally insane and literally do not know what they are doing. Those people have evidently gone astray, but should we love them?

It is true that some people would benefit from love because most of the persecutors have been persecuted before, many who have been abused tend to fall into the trap of the horrible and vicious cycle of abuse. Yes, it may stem from a lack of love. But if they are curable through love, then priests and humanist psychologists with their unconditional love should be able to help them, yet in reality they fail more often than not. Are those evil people then beyond hope - and love?

When you spend time with people who are filled with hate, if they do not affect you with their pessimism, then they might purposely try to hurt you. It would be the example of the snake that bit its owner's hand. The owner complained that he had taken care of and fed the snake for a period of time, so why had it been so ungrateful and attacked him. To which the snake replied, but you knew from the beginning that I am by nature a snake, and how do you presume to change who I am.

Although we may be able to bring out the good out of certain people, this does not apply to all the wicked people out there. The example of the snake brings about another question: Should we love the ultimate evil entity itself, the devil, the enemy of enemies?

My point here is that if we are too occupied with loving those who cannot be helped, it would be a waste of time and energy. Some might say that love is an unending well and the more you dig in and out, the more you will have.

But I would rather focus on those nearest to us, loving our neighbors and all those who would benefit from our time and love. Time is of issue here as we are allotted only a little time on earth no matter who we are or how important we think we may be. Anyhow, I would rather avoid my enemies and keep them at a distance because see what happened to poor Julius Caesar!

When it comes to the evil-minded in this world, I think the religious and spiritual people and certified professionals can take care of them for all I care. They are more qualified and will take on the risks of dealing with these dangerous individuals. In the meantime, I will feel sorry, compassionate and will try to help the evil-minded as best as I can, but loving them would be a counterproductive and harmful thing.


John said...

Arash, Joe, and Herby: or as we say in Texas, Ya'll:

I do not think I have any enemies. Still, I would just like to go on record as saying, that if I get any, I know I am not going to love them. I do not even plan to like them. In fact, I currently dislike everyone who is to become my enemy. And, yes, I feel malice toward this theoretical group of people. Not a huge amount, but a little bit. I hope each member of the group stubs his toe on something every time he thinks about doing whatever he is doing that is going to make me dislike him.

Just to make this group of enemies easier to reference, I think I will name it Herby. Think of a pride of lions, which refers to a group of lions; a gaggle of geese refers to a group of geese; and Herby refers to a group of my enemies. I do not like the name Herby and I do not like Herby.

Let me give you an example of how Herby works: Let us assume that I will eventually have 41 enemies. I hope Herby stubs 41 toes, minimally; more stubbed toes are ok.

Any by the way, Herby, I never wanted this to happen to us. Perhaps, once your toes are stubbed, we can make amends and start to heal the rift that separates us. Whatever you did, I suspect was the result of a misunderstanding, and your anger and mine are misplaced and pointless. You are not a bad person and neither am I. We merely disagree about something. I cannot apologize for whatever it is, because, frankly, I am not sorry. I also don’t expect you to ask for my forgiveness or even admit any wrong-doing. None of that matters. Everyone does what they do for a reason and when conflict is created it is virtually always the result of a misunderstanding of a situation or of someone else, or of ourselves. If we both agree that separation of knowledge, misunderstanding and different interpretations of facts are the source of most disputes, then that mutual awareness will apologize for both of us, and nothing more needs to be said.

I forgive you, Herby, and I hope you also will forgive me. May you be blessed with 41 bandages.


Barkha Dhar said...

This is such a wise post, completely engrosses the mind. Happy to learn from it!