This last lesson is the hardest.
I’m not sure I even need it.
Until a message pops up on my phone. My friend tells me she’s having a tough day, feeling excluded from family. I hear the pain in her words. The family believes this personal boycott is what the Bible tells them to do. It makes me terribly sad.
And angry. Maybe I do need this twelfth step of compassion:
Love Your Enemies.
Because despite my first thought (“I have no capital E Enemies!”), I wonder if I have small e enemies.
- People who get on my nerves
- People who cause pain to those I love
- People I judge the harshest
Are they my enemies?
And what about the systems underneath them? Are they enemies? Even the religious ones? Maybe especially the religious ones? They can make me the angriest.
- Religions that invert God’s good news into bad news
- Religions that assume they’re always right
- Religions that undervalue the grace of Jesus
The part of me that fails to love even them is the ugliest part of me.
I text back to my friend. I sympathize with her. I say I’m sure the family does care about you; they just don’t know how to handle the differences, how to love despite them, through them.
But I don’t know how to either. How does one properly love their enemies? I still struggle with wanting to want to.
And I’d still rather not classify them as enemies. Is that okay? I’m uncomfortable with the word. And the concept. It’s too strong.
So I fall back on grace (again) for myself. I worship the One who is ever compassionate on me. Who loves me perfectly despite myself. Who is teaching me to love others, despite their faults, through him.
Love all others, he says. No matter what I call them.
Love those who disagree with me, who repulse me, who don’t love me back. Maybe especially those.
After twelve months of intentional focus this year on how to be compassionate, this I know: I remain a beginner.
I’m still in Compassion 101.
But I promise I’ll keep on learning as long as God will keep on teaching. Compassion is my lifelong lesson.
* * *
I saw someone wearing this shirt yesterday in church. It’s going on my Christmas list.
Who do you want to love more? Did you have “one word” for 2014? Picked out one for 2015 yet? Please share in the comments.
See all Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life here, from Karen Armstrong’s book
- On the blog – November 2014
- Turn on the light – Memorizing scripture