MY ENEMY, MY TEACHER

My dad is recovering from open-heart surgery.  During this time, I have been sending him cards occasionally, with words of comfort from the Bible and other sources.  The 23rd Psalm is one of these comforting passages–I know it by heart, and have included it in one of my cards. 

Yet in reviewing the Psalms for other possibly uplifting passages to send him, I notice that one of the most recurring themes is “enemies”.  And I cannot help but ask who my enemies are.

In the Bible, Jesus tells you who your neighbors are, in using a parable.  But he doesn’t tell you who your enemies are–he simply encourages you to love your enemies.  And this is a very good, though very difficult, thing to do. 

In the Tao Teh Ching, Lao Tzu tells you your worst enemy is yourself–no matter who you are.  And this is a very good thing to realize. 

There are many people in this world (one I know personally) who are enemies of us all.  They have alot of evil in their hearts–and their agenda is to spread this evil as widely as possible, to infect as many others with this evil as they can.

Yet who are my personal enemies–enemies of me, personally? Honestly, I have no enemies, in this sense.  I would say I am my only enemy, but that wouldn’t be quite true either. 

I have come to the conclusion that my only enemy is not a person, but an affliction.  In my case, my affliction is mental illness.  So my only enemy is my mental illness–which I’ve had all my life.

Yet this enemy–this affliction–is also my teacher.  In fact, it may be the best teacher I’ve ever had.  Among other things, my mental illness has taught me to be more compassionate of others–especially others with mental illness, though not exclusively.  It has also taught me that suffering is a part of life–for everyone, regardless of social status, sex, race/ethnicity, sexuality, character, religious/spiritual beliefs, or anything else.  And it has taught me to question everything I’ve ever been taught by others–and everything I’ve ever been taught by my self.

My enemy is also my teacher.

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