Day 11: Loving Our Enemies Inside Out

Loving Our Enemies Inside Out

BY DR. JOHN IGWEBUIKE | March 4, 2023
Today’s Readings

Recently I took a 40-hour course on nonviolence. One of my key takeaways was this: Nonviolence is not about a confrontation with outside enemy forces. Instead, nonviolence is, first and foremost, a brave confrontation with inside (in-a-me) forces.  

Such selflessness, such authentic expression, and such a courageous act of love are exquisitely illustrated and eminently portrayed in the poignant parable of the Good Samaritan. There, the mixed-race Samaritan bravely puts himself at risk (on the curvy Jericho Road) to save a person who despised him as an “enemy.” Here is the potent and transformative power of love: The Samaritan returns condescension with compassion, hatred with hospitality, and stereotyping with sensitivity. The Samaritan sees beyond societally constructed constructs of race, categories, and labels to see a spiritually created child of God in the injured man. Looking within (in-a-me) he could truly see there is no “enemy” without. He beholds an individual cosmically created and divinely designed and therefore worthy of radical rescue, compassionate care, and unbounded understanding despite faults, failings, and flaws.Loving Our Enemies Inside OutSt. Ignatius implored early Jesuits to contemplate a similar introspection: “He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor.” The lifelong practice and pilgrimage of nonviolence require a daily introspective self-excavation before turning to confront the outside influences of evil. As the African proverb states: “If there is no enemy on the inside, the [perceived] enemy on the outside can do us no harm.”

Taken together, non-violence is a lifelong journey on the dusty, twisty road of Jericho. It is an ongoing inside-outside process—a spiritual sojourn with self—to daily discern and continuously confront the invisible and visible forces of evil with the infinite and eternal power of Christ’s limitless love. 

For Reflection:

  • Throughout this Lenten season, how can you journey toward non-violence and God’s love by looking within yourself to bravely confront the enemy inside?
4 replies
  1. Betty
    Betty says:

    This brings to mind “I am my own worst enemy.” In-a-me is a humbling and challenging concept; one that I struggle with as I seek a transformative relationship with God. I pray that God will grant me the grace to discern and address those internal elements in me that contribute to the difficulties I experience as I try to love as He does.

  2. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    “If there is no enemy on the inside, the [perceived] enemy on the outside can do us no harm” – Well said.

  3. Greg Immethun
    Greg Immethun says:

    How do I journey toward non-violence? I look inside myself for the sources of shame that whisper in my ear constantly: “Hurry up slug, you’re late. Get going or you’re lazy. Need to get started or time will run out. I should get to mass or it’s a sin. Got to be kind or I’ll go to hell. Got to volunteer if I’m going to get to heaven.” The list goes on and on. They whisper in my ear constantly because that is the mentality I was raised with. At the root,the message is you are guilty and can only be worthy if you are good. I hear this message from my friends and fellow catholics everyday. It’s motivation by shame.

    My psychologist has shown me this is a form of violence I perpetrate on myself. I am teaching myself with a constant chorus of guilt trips to feel like I’m unworthy, less than, in a sense evil. The most insidious part is it’s been sold to my psyche as a good thing, a way to make myself better.

    Yet I am also told that God loves me, that I am an adopted child of God who can justifiable cry out Abba Father. That I’m made in God’s image. That God made everything, and he made it good. Which one is it? My ears hear one thing, yet my psyche tells me another.

    The consequences of this shame are many. I think people are out to get me, I get angry and lash out to try to make others change with force. I use sarcasm to put others down and myself up, I don’t listen to others, only wait until they finish so I can try to drive home MY point. I get defensive, and upset and try to shut down people who don’t agree with me with harsh tones, sarcasm, and threats. I wake up feeling like a failure unless I pull it up and prove myself with my action. I feel like I’m wrong, in general, many days. In short, I don’t believe I’m basically good.

    If I follow the advice of my whisper I’ll administer more shame to try to correct this shame. Crazy, right? Once I saw this, though, I could not stop thinking about it because it is so counterproductive. It’s actually destructive to the idea that God is love and God is in all things. It is a form of violence that’s been sold as love. I’ve been taught it is the right thing to do and my psyche believes it, yet I now know better.

    So my prayers and my work is centered around letting motivation by shame go, and replacing it with the non-violent idea that I am basically good (as is everyone), and, left to my own nature, will do good things (and so will they). That the reason I act “sinfully” is due to the non helpful belief that shaming motivates love. To notice how I use shame on others. After all, if I shame myself to correct, why would I not do it to others too. I attack in good conscience. Yet the outcome is not loving, or conducive to bringing about unity through love, aka the Kingdom of God.

    I am finding the sources of this shame are often my own religion. The catholic tradition of Pay, Pray, and Obey lives on very healthily, but in disguise. The punitive aspects of our church laws are instrumental in teaching this shame in our children and it’s simply not loving or Christ-like. Pope Francis and company are doing all they can to hasten this change, but many in church leadership are not. I don’t think they are evil, but that they just don’t see it yet. It’s a hard thing to grasp, but it’s never hopeless. As I work out the demise of shame as my primary motivation, I also work to illuminate its effects on our social structures. This is my journey toward non-violence.

    Thanks for listening. Peace.


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