Loving one’s enemies
A Christian Science perspective: Commentary on Liu Xiaobo’s letter about having no enemies.
The idea of loving one’s enemies can sound, to the uninitiated, naive and impractical. But in fact, it’s a powerful commandment that fosters real and lasting peace. An editorial on CSMonitor.com titled “Love from China’s famed dissident” lifted my thought and led to the resolution of a tough situation at work.
The editorial pointed out that Liu Xiaobo, “China’s most famous political dissident,” is halfway through an 11-year prison term he received for calling on China to end one-party rule. After years of silence, Mr. Liu sent a message to a friend in which he reiterated his belief that he has no enemies. During his court sentencing in 2009, Liu said in part, “Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress towards freedom and democracy.”
Liu’s phrase, “enemy mentality,” takes the stance that an “enemy” is not a person, but rather a state of thought. This state of thought is then externalized in hurtful, unkind, aggressive, or dishonest behavior. But it starts with a thought.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper and the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, came to the conclusion that everything in our experience starts with thought. Her inspired interpretation of biblical texts and demonstrable healings illuminated the spiritual facts that God is all-powerful good, divine Mind, and that man is the immutable, irrefutable reflection of perfect Mind (see Genesis 1). It’s these teachings I turned to in prayer when confronted with a challenging work situation.
A trusted colleague lied to me. When I discovered it, I felt betrayed. But before I entertained an “enemy mentality” any further, I turned quickly to God in prayer to realize nothing antagonistic could hinder or hurt me. One passage I read from Mrs. Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” perfectly addressed the situation: “We ought to weary of the fleeting and false and to cherish nothing which hinders our highest selfhood” (p. 68).
This sentence stopped me in my tracks. I saw so clearly that my colleague’s behavior was – in the truest sense of things – “fleeting and false.” That kind of behavior isn't part of anyone's God-given nature of kindness and honesty. The only power it had to hurt me was the power I gave it by ruminating or being mad about the lie. Furthermore, I didn’t want to cherish any negative feelings because they would hinder my own “highest selfhood.” A sense of calm washed over me.
As I continued to pray, a practical idea came clearly to thought about how I could respond to this individual. This idea in turn fostered an unexpected solution to a longstanding business problem. I was in awe of God’s goodness and thorough provision. I felt free and empowered, and deeply grateful for the reminder that love is always superior to hate. Whether it’s a work or a personal issue, at a community level or on the world stage, we always have a choice regarding how we think about and respond to a situation. Forgiveness and compassion strengthen and empower the giver as well as the receiver. As the Bible states, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).