We all have them…

Being on the receiving end of anger and hate seems to be an inescapable part of the human condition. At any moment, somebody out there may harbor ill will toward us. Sometimes it is for reasons we can understand, sometimes not.

I remember a classmate in college telling me that he had sat down at a table to study, and a girl, with whom he was not acquainted, had scowled at him and moved away. His complaint was that he wanted everybody to like him, and he was bothered by the fact that a complete stranger had turned up her nose at him. I told him, “Well, that’s too bad, but it’s impossible to get everyone in the whole world to like you. That’s just the way life is!”

Sometimes the hostility is expected. We got a death threat or two from the articles about Geert Wilders’ Fitna movie, but we figure that just goes with the territory. Anybody who expresses an opinion or takes a stand is liable to stir up some anger and hatred. On the other hand, those who never express an opinion may be accused of spinelessness, sloth, or stupidity. So it’s impossible to make a favorable impression on everybody.

Enemies versus the human spirit

We cannot afford to let our enemies define who we are.

Whether we choose our enemies or they choose us, we can still be in a boatload of spiritual trouble, often without realizing it. I was unable to determine where the following quotation comes from; it may perhaps be from Lao Tzu. Be that as it may, its truth is all too often borne out by the record of human history:

Choose your enemies carefully, because you will become more and more like them.

Spiritual survival

This may surprise many readers, but the traditions of the Orthodox Christian Church include prayer “for those who hate us.” The following is from page 23 of A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY 1991.

Prayers for Our Enemies

Thou who didst pray for them that crucified thee, O Lord, lover of the souls of men, and who didst command thy servants to pray for their enemies, forgive those who hate and maltreat us, and turn our lives from all harm and evil to brotherly love and good works: for this we humbly bring our prayer, that with one accord and one heart we may glorify thee who alone lovest mankind.

As thy first martyr Stephen prayed to thee for his murderers, O Lord, so we fall before thee and pray: forgive all who hate and maltreat us and let not one of them perish because of us, but all be saved by thy grace, O God the all-bountiful.

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