God bless my enemy. Bless her. God.
For whatever reason she is someone I can’t confront. I can’t talk to her about what’s troubling us. Often she’s nothing more than a wet hen pecking at me incessantly—you aren’t worthy, you don’t belong here, you’re not good enough. The wounds are subtle, but I bleed.
I know my enemy because she sits like a cockleburr on my soul, the prickers so sharp it does no good to talk it out, the pain only nestles, making itself comfortable and me obsessing: I could have said…I should have replied… But anything I might say to defend myself would be met by an accusation I cannot answer. My brain rides a spin that skips, the music played over and over. I bore my friends. They withdraw.
I do not want to be married to my enemy because of the hate, but I am harnessed to her as surely as two Clydesdales are bound by heavy leather straps, tugs, and the load they are pulling. Besides, just because she hates me, and sometimes it’s just that, her hatred, it doesn’t mean I have to hate him back.
There is wisdom behind Jesus’ commands to love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you. It’s a wisdom that reflects the saying that when we hate others it’s because we are uneasy with ourselves. But sometimes it’s easier to hate someone out there, who has done us wrong, than our own souls, who did someone else wrong. How can I pray such a thing when I hate her? I hate the woman. There I said it.
God bless her.
I hate her.
God bless her.
I swear it’s like shoving my shoulder against a Clydesdale that will not move, her quarter ton hoof resting on my foot. Bless. Her. My enemy. I lean into the horse. Punch her flank. The mare turns her head, looks at me with kinder eyes than her hoof, leans into me. Bless the nag. God. Get her off my foot.
God what am I saying? I can’t tell you what to do. I can only trust your Spirit’s stepping between us, with a language more like groans and I think about my dog as he stretches out of sleep to waking, with low throated greetings like nickers from a horse.
God does something, or the prayer’s own power, or the goodness being traded for evil, but some magic of goodness happens. He feeds her, my enemy, pouring oats into her manger. She steps forward. I pant as the blood shoots into my foot. The pain eases.
I have seen this blessing work a slow miracle in the most intractable of relationships, where I had no hope we’d ever speak again, but there we were, talking and listening with compassion. So this is one thing I believe and practice. I bless her, my enemy. And in blessing her I bless myself.
This last piece was first published on This I believe.
Nadia Bolz Weber also talks about this unhitching from people who have hurt us in Forgive Assholes. Her language is earthy but her words are grace filled.
How have you found your way to forgiveness? What are your practices?
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