Love your enemy

Reading the good old book, upon which I am basing much of my life, from time to time I come across a sentence which I find challenging. The sentence goes like this: “Love your enemy as yourself.”

I grew up in Norway, in a peaceful place, in a peaceful nation. We are so peaceful that we give out a prize for peace every year. Our neighbouring nation to the East is neutral; they don’t like us or hate us…kind of.

To the West and to the South, we have only the North Sea and no enemy to speak of. To the North, however, we are bordering Russia, or the Soviet Union when I was young. For us that was the same as the devil himself. Our enemy or at least ‘not our friend’.

To make it short, Western Europe was our friend and Eastern Europe was the opposite. I grew up in this little bubble of a split Europe. We knew who was good and who was bad, we had friends and we had all the others.

So when I read “love your enemy as yourself”, I wonder today, can someone tell me who is my enemy?

I live on the side of Europe that apparently was our enemy 25 years ago. Today my life unfolds here. So can someone draw me a line, make it clear who I should dislike, and please define my enemies?

Some make my enemy out to be the refugees coming to Europe, but how can they be? The book says to show mercy and the main character was himself a refugee growing up. We would call him a minority refugee today.

Others make it political. They make one case so big that they lose sight of reality, and instead people become their enemies.

Well today it can be difficult to define our enemy, but what about in day to day life? What about our leadership, is it as difficult there? I really hope that you don’t have enemies; not in the physical world and not in your mind.

Love, this word is strong, powerful and, when it is used correctly, can change peoples lives. Consider the refugees. If you are on the sceptical side of this issue, do me a favour, invite some of them for dinner, look them in their eyes and learn to love them, then see what comes out of that.

In some organisations, where mistrust is a part of the culture, leaders make enemies of their people or insecurity makes the enemy factor rise.

What do I mean by mistrust? When I meet people that give me long explanations of why we should not vaccinate our children, or that the government is looking over your shoulder, I learned that there is a high level of mistrust. That is for me alarming in leadership, trust comes out of the way we live, and if we always go around with a feeling of people are after us, what a stress!

Insecurity. We are all insecure to certain levels. Put me in the midst of a group of strangers, with no agenda, no instructions and my insecurity rises. What scares me a bit is that some nations and cultures have learned from an early age to speak so well for themselves, that they look like the most secure people on the planet. But when you start working, observing and learning more, you see that it’s just an outward face while the inside is full of insecurity. The result of this can be overly controlling or lack of understanding situations. For many organisations this is painful.

Love your enemies. If one of your people comes to you with something that could be taken as criticism, we should give them the right to speak. There is always some truth in feedback, however hard it is. Love. It could be that your staff or employee or friend says something because he loves you, but you take it as hate or criticism. It can be that you and I need to respond with love and not make people into enemies because they share things we don’t want to hear or see.

I just experienced this. I shared something that for me was an observation, but the person I shared it with, someone seemingly secure and confident, was most likely the opposite. I spoke from a position of love for people and this specific work, but it was taken wrongly from the other side. The enemy factor raised and instead of being met with dialogue and coffee (the best tool when dialogues need to happen), dialogue was shut down.

This leads always to a lose-lose situation, and for me it was hard to see the consequences of insecure leadership. I learned a lot, and it gave me a lot to think about.

Our enemies growing up were based on political views and geographical areas, fuelled by massive propaganda and most of all, lack of dialogue.

Peace can only be obtained when dialogue sits at the table.

Until next time, make sure to love, and let’s try to do our best not to make enemies.

Rune Sæther


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