I have found myself pondering more about the words from St. Augustine on which I based yesterday’s reflection:
“Imagine the vanity of thinking that your enemy can do you more damage than your enmity!”
-St. Augustine of Hippo, 4th Century
Along with looking at the notion of enemy as the ‘other’, those we would categorize, judge and marginalize, and therefore view as essentially sub-human, there is another way to reflect on the saint’s words – a way more direct and personal.
I’ve been in parish ministry over 19 years. During that time, I’ve heard some pretty painful, sad and tragic stories. I’ve learned something about human nature and the painful stories that are woven into our lives in one way or another; one the one hand, those moments of pain and struggle can help to transform us if we learn from them and grow through them. Conversely, those times of pain, tragedy and hurt can continue to control, hurt and beat us down if we cannot find a way to give them their due while still continuing the journey of life. This journey can include spiritual direction, counseling, and the hard work of forgiveness. Some things are simply unforgiveable, for us. However, if we ask God to do the forgiving, even if we’re not ready, we can begin to experience at that early stage some freedom and relief from the animosity or ill will or resentments within.
On this level, there is also much truth in what Augustine wrote. Those moments of abuse, betrayal, sadness and pain will live on inside us if we hang on to them, allowing enmity, a feeling of ill will, desire for revenge and resentment, to grow. This enmity is deadly to us in all kinds of ways, spiritually and otherwise, and has no effect on the one(s) to whom the ill will is directed.
A good prayer might be, “God of love and mercy, help me to see where enmity resides within me. Please give me the grace to grow more and more into freedom, hope and peace. Amen.”