My senior semester of college was going great — my workload was relatively light, and I only had classes two days a week. I had plenty of time for my friends.
But one thing was off. For the first time since I was in middle school, I hated a fellow student. I know “hate” is a strong word, but hear me out.
I just don’t like her.
I met her when I was a junior and she was a freshman, and I disliked her almost immediately. There was just something about the way she participated in class and interacted with others that rubbed me the wrong way. Also, in a couple of our interactions — some where I was in a position of authority or had more experience — she was flat-out disrespectful.
My best friend and I spent a lot of time in the last year learning about our personalities (see her post). During this time, I learned that often you dislike a person because that person, in some way, reminds you of yourself. A few weeks into the semester, after trying to critically analyze my strong dislike for her, I realized I did see pieces of myself in her. I felt like she was a more outspoken version of myself three years ago — sure of what she believes and judgmental of less serious students. I didn’t disagree with her outspoken beliefs, I just wanted her to tone them down and show more love (oh, the irony).
I’ve always considered myself a pretty loving person, so I was shocked at how deeply I disliked her. I kept saying, “I can’t believe how much I … hate her!” I talked about it a lot with my good friend, and we prayed that God would make me more loving. I tended to vent endlessly about this girl, and it was fun, but I knew it was wrong.
Is she my enemy?
I read Matthew 5:43-48, the passage where Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I’ve read this passage more times than I can count, but this time it stopped me.
How often do we actually admit we even have enemies?
Growing up in a Christian family and school, I was often told “don’t say you ‘hate’ someone — that’s very strong language,” so I learned to avoid the words “hate” and “enemy.” But merely avoiding the words didn’t change my heart attitude.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines an enemy as “one that seeks the injury, overthrow, or failure of a person or thing to which he is opposed.” Sure, I wasn’t plotting to kill her, but I certainly hoped she wrote a horrible essay for that one class and did terrible on that test. Is my communication with her adversarial? Not all the time, but sure, sometimes.
And I realized that in my heart, she’s my enemy.
If I’m honest …
Now, I know viewing her as enemy isn’t OK. As Lysa TerKeurst wrote in “Uninvited,” “Bitterness, resentment, and anger have no place in a heart as beautiful as yours.”
But by considering her an enemy, she’s no longer in that nebulous category — where we place people we don’t like but don’t want to admit we hate. And by finally admitting she is my enemy, it forced me to deal with my attitude. It has humbled me. It has allowed me to be honest before the Lord about my need for His forgiveness and strength to overcome this.
In the same book, TerKeurst offered some helpful suggestions for dealing with people we consider our enemies. First, she reminds us that our enemy is really the Devil. Sure, that person may drive us nuts, but just know that all contention and fighting is ultimately sin and the Devil trying to separate us far from God. To combat this, TerKeurst suggests that we make a list of good things about that person. Finally, she reminds us to “rise above the circumstances and determine to hold on to the greater good in the grand scheme of things: honoring God.”
So often I’ve ignored that passage in Matthew just because I didn’t consider my dislike of certain people significant enough to consider those people my enemy. Now, with trembling hands, I’ve recorded this person’s name in my prayer journal, confessing that I view her as my enemy.
Has change occurred overnight? Did my feelings of hatred suddenly turn to love for this person? No, not yet. But I believe that by confessing my sin against this person, taking her name to the Lord in prayer, and considering the good she possesses, the Holy Spirit will work change within me.
Jenny Rice is a wife, student and writer from Maryland.
Copyright 2018 Jenny Rice. All rights reserved.