In my book on Hospitality-the sacred art, I have a chapter devoted to hospitality to our enemies. These are two words we don’t put together in our heads (or our practice) very often. Hospitality. Enemies.
The idea is very akin to the Jesus concepts of “Love your enemies,” “pray for those who persecute you.” When Jesus cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” it’s a similar thing.
In the chapter, I outline a spiritual practice of Self-Examination because transformative spiritual hospitality is based, I believe, on honest self-awareness. This is especially important when we are faced with adversarial or hostile situations.
I rely a lot on the writings of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in this chapter, as they were brilliant theologians and practitioners of “loving” “enemies.” Rev. King has a great sermon called Loving Your Enemies that he preached in 1957, before I was born. I relied on his sermon for inspiration and courage in writing my chapter about hospitality to enemies. Read his full sermon here.
Here is a short piece from my book:
Dr. King’s second step toward loving enemies invites us to look within for a very specific purpose. He suggested that we look for the good in our enemies and look for the evil that is in us. Dr. King described us as being split up and divided against ourselves as though a civil war were raging inside us. It is the “isness” of our present nature being out of harmony with the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts us, Dr King said. In other words, we’re not as completely good as we would like to be.
If we can recognize that this is true within ourselves as well as within our adversaries, then we can no longer see ourselves as entirely innocent, or our adversaries as entirely guilty, or evil. There is no wholly good person, just as there is no wholly bad person. There are only human beings. When we can realize and remember our shared humanity with our adversaires, our attitude can shift, and a little compassion may even rise up within us.
If you would like to explore this particular practice, you can simply add a new step or focus to the earlier exercise of self-examination. Work your way through the same steps of imagining your adversary, and this time look for signs within yourself of hostility, hatred, disrespect, disdain, or anything that undermines the humanity of your adversary by seeing him or her as all bad. Also notice that seeing yourself as all good undermines your own humanity too, because that belief is not based in the complex reality of what it means to be human.