Thinking Anew – A grudge is not something to nurture

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

Most people would not consider themselves as having enemies; it is a very strong word. We may have neighbours that dislike us or we may dislike them but we would usually avoid using the words enemy, foe, adversary or nemesis to describe these people. Occasionally somebody rises that genuinely wishes to harm you, yet the synonyms of enemy are an unusual choice for describing this person.

We are witnessing an era with divisions showing, barriers rising, alliances breaking and treaties being ripped up. We are constantly being told about the dangers of people who are dissimilar to us, and the world might be sliding into a dangerous period where the word enemy might become common again.

It would seem our usual reluctance to use enmity to describe our fraught relationships to the other is that it lacks mutuality – maybe it is that we would only feel justified in using the word enemy when we hate them and they hate us. When a dislike is one-sided, and it more usually is, our conscience prevents us from labelling a one-directional hatred as worthy of the description enmity, it is nothing more than aggression, and we acknowledge that in our innermost being.

Praying for our enemies is a fundamental part of Christianity and remains so even if the history of the Christian world has been preying on our enemy instead.

The Christian world is a poorly labelled world where a glimmer of modesty could transfigure everything if we dared let is shine a little. Praying for our enemy is the first step in de-escalating violence because the person praying is wishing for something positive for an enemy and that kills the mutuality of the hatred. We are enemies no longer though we may remain under attack.

Facing an attacker is no easier for a Christian than it is for anybody else. Being asked to do good to the people who mistreat us and to offer the other cheek to the attacker who has smacked us on the other one are difficult standards to adhere to but we are expected to live to them nonetheless. Disregarding them completely is not an option. Descending to the levels of the aggressor does little to justify us as being any better than the person who acts badly against us. Jesus did not instruct us to abandon ourselves to the whims of those who wish us harm, he merely recommended that we would not escalate small incidents into big ones . The longest journey starts with a single footstep and the most vicious conflicts begin with a single grudge. Preventing conflict at the grudge level is the Christian way because allowing it to happen later brings immense suffering to everybody, even the so-called victor.

The role of grudge was big in the news when an actor frankly admitted to a grudge he once held. Voices rose in condemnation although, to paraphrase Christ, let the one who has never borne a grudge be the first to throw a stone. It would be lovely is there was somebody who had that right to throw the first stone; it would mean that there was one perfect Christian in the world but, sadly, all of us have likely harboured some resentment at some stage in our lives. Judge not and you will not be judged, condemn not and you will not be condemned, forgive and you will be forgiven; the first step to world peace is turning your cheek away from the prophets of grudge and seeking a better path.

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