Loving Your Enemies (A New Take)

Recently I have been reading a book about St. Therese titled, "Everything is Grace" by Joseph Schmidt. It is an excellent book if one wants to learn more about the life of St. Therese.

I was struck by a chapter where it speaks about how St. Therese dealt with several of the difficult nuns at her convent.  At first glance it seems strange and even humorous that there could be such enmity in a place that was supposed to be unified in its ideals. But since human nature is imperfect, difficulties and even dissensions can take place even in the holiest of places.

In her autobiography, "Story of a Soul."  St. Therese speaks about one elderly nun who was very taxing. This nun had the habit of always criticizing the actions of others.  So one day St. Therese offered to help the nun to walk to the dinner table.  The whole time the nun criticized her, but amazingly St. Therese managed to smile the whole time giving the other nuns the impression that she was very happy doing this.  What the other nuns didn't know was that inwardly St. Therese struggled greatly.

St. Therese defined her enemies not in the traditional sense of adversaries, but in a new way. To St. Therese her enemies were the nuns who irritated her the most.  St. Therese believed that when Jesus preached about loving one's enemies he also meant that one must love at all times. This, often times included people who were the most difficult to get along with.

As humans we all have a tendency to label people such as "good", "not good", or "bad." What St. Therese is saying is that these labels aren't bad in themselves, but only become so if they get in the way of practicing charity towards another.

Personally for me I struggle with this.  For me people who think in "liberal" terms are my enemies. So powerful are my feelings towards "liberals" that often times it gets in the way of me practicing love towards them.  There have been many times where I have chosen not to act in a loving manner in order to prove a political or philosophical point.  St. Therese is challenging me to love "liberals" just as Christ does.  So the next time I am tempted to avoid, to engage, or to debate a liberal I am called instead to love them by being kind to them viewing them as Christ does.

I admit that this is a tall order, but the highway of love is always steep and difficult. St. Therese's simple reworking of the term "enemy" if practiced can bring forth peace, in a small way to a world that is filled with "enemies" and dissension.


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