Loving Your Enemies


Friendtier is about connecting with people and creating bonds.  However, it is a fact that sometimes, friendships deteriorate, and a one-time friend is now considered an enemy.  Misunderstandings sometimes make people feel they have been betrayed, or in some other way, the friendship is destroyed.  Therefore, it is good to know that you are the type of person who will forgive and not hold a grudge.  But — can you really learn to love your enemy?

Love your enemy? At first, it seemed to me that this was impossible. Then, as I began considering it, just considering the possibility gave me insights into my own residual anger. The cure for anger, I discovered, was compassion. The two are linked like two sides of a coin.

Once, someone slashed my brand-new studded snow tires. Not only were the tires slashed within twenty-four hours of being purchased, they were slashed on Christmas Eve!

Now, if we only love the people who are nice to us, it’s easy. Anyone can do that. It is only when we can love the people who abuse us that we get to experience something new and extreme.

But on that Christmas morning, when I woke up to find four slashed tires, I wasn’t thinking about loving my enemies. Since I had just bought them the day before, I started to grow livid. I thought of myself as a just man. My brand of justice included punishing the perpetrator of any offense against me. And so, normally, I would have instantly exploded with upset and anger.

But then, in that moment, in a flash, I realized I was being given an extraordinary opportunity to practice something I had only known intellectually. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I could feel compassion for the person who did this. What a miserable, angry, unhappy person this had to be. I would definitely want to be me, and not this other person with feelings that result in destructive behavior. Being the victim in this scenario seemed to me to be the less painful position. You may know someone whose story is so devastating and dramatic that it makes slashed tires seem like small potatoes, but sometimes even life’s small injustices can seem to us, as we experience them, the equivalent of a Greek tragedy.

To my astonishment, I found myself with my heart open, thinking compassionately of the perpetrator. I could never have imagined the empowerment. Instead of feeling like a victim is supposed to feel, I felt like a spiritual master. It was a dazzling experience of something that had remained mysterious to me for years: if you are to practice true spirituality, at some point, you must begin to actively love your enemies.

Author Mary Crowley is quick to remind us that people need loving the most when they deserve it the least. When you do something as radical as loving your enemies, your ego might go into a convulsion! This kind of response to life goes against almost everyone’s programming. We are not programmed to love those who hurt us. It goes against our survival instinct. That is why you find few people practicing this one of Jesus’ directives. Even those who would call themselves dedicated Christians have a hard time with this one. But, as humans, we’ve evolved past the point where only the fittest, the most able to fight, survive.

Begin to practice forgiveness. Make a list of every person and situation you haven’t yet forgiven. Regularly go through the list and see who you are ready to forgive. Do whatever it takes to heal the hurt, whether it is by saying affirmations, writing a letter, or making a phone call. When you feel complete, surround the incident with a mentally constructed pink bubble and watch it float away. Practice forgiveness every day. It takes work, but it is worth the effort. 

This cannot be done intellectually. Loving forgiveness takes work. You will always know whether you are practicing forgiveness properly by checking the way you physically feel. If you are feeling anything but ecstasy, you are in your head and not your heart.

After you’ve mastered forgiveness, you can take the exercise to the next level, which is to actually love those who abuse you. Understandably, this can be difficult; yet, until you are able to do this for the first time, you will never understand what the result can be.

When you struggle with forgiveness and loving someone who has hurt you, ask yourself, “Is this worth closing my heart for?”

Make a mental list of all the people you know and rank them in order, starting with those you like most and ending with those you like least. Who is at the very bottom of the list? Probably someone you detest. Perhaps your Uncle Slimy?

Now imagine this scenario: You have reserved a mountain cabin for yourself. You want to spend a few days in seclusion, and you take with you your favorite books, foods, and music. Shortly after you settle into your cabin, an unexpected blizzard strikes. However, you are well prepared, and you are actually pleased to be so insulated and alone with your favorite things in this snowbound cabin.All of a sudden, in through the door stumbles Uncle Slimy.

As you do this exercise, hold a mental picture of Uncle Slimy in your mind’s eye. How does that image make you feel? Imagine being cooped up with him for several days in a snowbound cabin. How does that make you feel?

As a student of extreme spirituality, you now know that it is not Uncle Slimy creating the negative feelings you are experiencing, it is you yourself creating them by your reactions to Uncle Slimy. The crux of this exercise is for you to be able to love your Uncle Slimy unconditionally.

Close your eyes and speak to your uncle. Say out loud, I am going to spend these few days in this cabin with you, and here is how I am going to keep my heart open…

You may not actually be able to open your heart at this point in time. Yet, by doing the exercise, you may at least learn intellectually what you will have to eventually do if you want to reap the power that comes from loving those who are usually classified as unlovable.


Tolly Burkan began teaching in 1973. At that time, he presented "The Science of Happiness" invented by Ken Keyes. Tolly and Ken taught together and co-authored the bestselling book How to Make Your Life Work or Why Aren't You Happy? published by Simon & Schuster in 1976.

Tolly is most renowned, however, as the founder of the international firewalking movement. Tolly’s approach to firewalking resulted in a global phenomenon of over four million people attending firewalking classes. Due to his pioneering strategies, firewalking seminars are now regularly offered on six continents.

Tolly built his reputation by consistently creating innovative, cutting-edge methods for developing human potential. In 1977 he created the world’s first firewalking class and began teaching firewalking to the general public. In the 1980s, he started working with large corporations and began training instructors. The '90s transformed his work into a mushrooming corporate trend. Even mainstream companies such as Microsoft, American Express and Met-Life began including firewalking in their executive empowerment seminars.

Tolly has taught firewalking to many celebrities, including Andrew Weil, M.D., Regis Philbin, and Anthony Robbins. His public seminars have a broad range of appeal, drawing attendees from across the country and around the world. Tolly recently demonstrated mind over matter on national television by influencing slot machines in Nevada casinos during one of his peak performance trainings covered by Inside Edition.

In addition to being the first person to offer firewalking in public seminars, Tolly was the first to offer public seminars teaching ordinary people to walk barefooted, unharmed, on shards of broken glass; the first to teach public classes that included metal bar bending; barehanded brick breaking; arrow snapping; and many other esoteric practices of heightened awareness and empowerment, usually reserved for a select few.

In 2008, Tolly stopped teaching firewalking publicly, shifting his focus to certifying firewalking instructors. Tolly also lectures, and conducts private retreats at his home in the Sierra Mountains of northern California. He has authored eight books that are available in 15 languages, and has been featured in over 70 books, hundreds of magazines and newspapers, and on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Since 1984, Tolly has regularly appeared on all major television networks and has been a guest on Donahue,Regis, Geraldo and MythBusters.

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