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OUR ENEMIES





WHAT is an enemy? A personal, an individual enemy is he who has done us
a personal injury. The enemy, in a general or collective sense, are
they--a people, a class or party--who are opposed to our interests,
whose presence, doings or sayings are obnoxious to us for many natural
reasons. Concerning these latter, it might be said that it is natural,
oftentimes necessary and proper, to oppose them by all legitimate
means. This opposition, however lawful, is scarcely ever compatible
with any high degree of charity or affection. But whatever of aversion,
antipathy or even hatred is thereby engendered, it is not of a personal
nature; it does not attain the individual, but embraces a category of
beings as a whole, who become identified with the cause they sustain
and thereby fall under the common enmity. The law that binds us unto
love of our enemy operates only in favor of the units, and not of the
group as a group.

Hatred, aversion, antipathy, such as divides peoples, races and
communities, is one, though not the highest, characteristic of
patriotism; it may be called the defect of a quality. When a man is
whole-souled in a cause, he will brook with difficulty any system of
ideas opposed to, and destructive of, his own. Anxious for the triumph
of what he believes the cause of right and justice, he will rejoice
over the discomfiture of his rivals and the defeat of their cause. Wars
leave behind an inheritance of hatred; persecution makes wounds that
take a long time to heal. The descendants of the defeated, conquered or
persecuted will-look upon the generations of their fathers' foes as
typifying oppression, tyranny and injustice, will wish them all manner
of evil and gloat over their downfall. Such feelings die hard. They
spring from convictions. The wounds made by injustice, fancied or real,
will smart; and just as naturally will men retain in their hearts
aversion for all that which, for them, stands for such injustice. This
is criminal only when it fails to respect the individual and become
personal hate.

Him who has done us a personal injury we must forgive. Pardon drives
hatred out of the heart. Love of God is incompatible with personal
enmity; therefore such enmity must be quelched. He who says he loves
God and hates his brother is a liar, according to divine testimony.
What takes the place of this hate? Love, a love that is called common
love, to distinguish it from that special sort of affection that we
have for friends. This is a general kind of love that embraces all men,
and excludes none individually. It forbids all uncharity towards a man
as a unit, and it supposes a disposition of the soul that would not
refuse to give a full measure of love and assistance, if necessity
required it. This sort of love leaves no room for hatred of a personal
nature in the heart.

Is it enough to forgive sincerely from the heart? It is not enough; we
must manifest our forgiveness, and this for three good reasons: first,
in order to secure us against self-illusion and to test the sincerity
of our dispositions; secondly, in order to put an end to discord by
showing the other party that we hold no grudge; lastly, in order to
remove whatever scandal may have been given by our breach of
friendship. The disorder of enmity can be thoroughly cured and healed
only by an open renewal of the ties of friendship; and this is done by
the offering and acknowledgment of the signs of friendship.

The signs of friendship are of two sorts, the one common, the other
special. Common tokens of friendship are those signs which are current
among people of the same condition of life; such as saluting, answering
a question, dealing in business affairs, etc. These are commonly
regarded as sufficient to take away any reasonable suspicion of hatred,
although, in matter of fact, the inference may be false. But the
refusal to give such tokens of pardon usually argues the presence of an
uncharitable feeling that is sinful; it is nearly always evidence of an
unforgiving spirit. There are certain cases wherein the offense
received being of a peculiar nature, justifies one in deferring such
evidence of forgiveness; but these cases are rare.

If we are obliged to show by unmistakable signs that we forgive a wrong
that has been done, we are in nowise bound to make a particular friend
of the person who has been guilty of the wrong. We need not go out of
our way to meet him, receive or visit him or treat him as a long lost
brother. He would not expect it, and we fulfil our obligations toward
him by the ordinary civilities we show him in the business of life.

If we have offended, we must take the first step toward reconciliation
and apologize; that is the only way we have of repairing the injury
done, and to this we are held in conscience. If there is equal blame on
both sides, then both are bound to the same duty of offering an
apology. To refuse such advances on the part of one who has wronged us
is to commit an offense that might very easily be grievous.

All this, of course, is apart from the question of indemnification in
case of real damage being sustained. We may condone an offense and at
the same time require that the loss suffered be repaired. And in case
the delinquent refuse to settle amicably, we are justified in pursuing
him before the courts. Justice is not necessarily opposed to charity.





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Previous: ENMITY



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