“Imagine the vanity of thinking that your enemy can do you more damage than your enmity!”
-St. Augustine of Hippo, 4th Century
As a society we seem to be in a rush to find and name enemies as of late. Rather than there being good people with whom we disagree, many are in a hurry to label and write off large groups of folks. Union members or leaders are “thugs” and complicit with graft and corruption. Conservative, traditional, hard-working people are “right wing wacko’s”. Christians are judgmental, bigoted and arrogant. Muslims have a secret agenda to take over our country and subvert our legal system. Illegal immigrants are the cause of disease and are lazy and immoral. Republicans want to help make the rich more wealthy. Democrats have want to give free handouts to anyone who asks and will break the fiscal back of the country in the process. Those who support gun rights are crazed while those who support more strict gun controls are anti-US Constitution. I could go on, but I don’t want to. You know what I’m referring to here because, like me, you’re living in the midst of it. Sick of it? I am.
I know for a fact that St. Augustine wasn’t thinking about all of this when he penned the words I quoted above. He lived in another time and culture. However, the truth of his words transcend both culture and time.
Imagine your vanity, my vanity, at somehow thinking that all those folks we’re so busy judging, many of whom are probably, like us, trying to do the right thing, taking care of their responsibilities, following their passion and conscience and beliefs and faith… think of the arrogance on our part if we somehow think that they may do more harm to us than the harm we do to ourselves when we take energy and time from this one life we have been given to taunt, name-call, demonize, belittle, mock, and regard as sub-human those who we think of as ‘enemy’ or the ones we see as blocking the full realization of our goals, visions or beliefs. Feeling hostility, hatred or ill will toward others will most assuredly harm us far more than any real or imagined threat from those we would malign.
Maybe this would be a good time to pray for the grace and the strength to see our own enmity. While we’re at it, we may ask the Lord to help us come to some sense of the innate goodness and humanity of those with whom we disagree and those we would put in the category of “enemy”.