THINK ON THESE: Of friends and enemies

When it comes to politics “there are no permanent friends and enemies.”

That’s the opinion of Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte when asked by reporters about her idea on why Representatives Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Isidro Ungab were removed as deputy speakers.

This brings us to the subject of friends and enemies.

A friend, as the dictionary defines it, is “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.” An enemy, on the other hand, is “a person who hates or opposes another person and tries to harm them or stop them from doing something.”

Let’s talk about friends and friendship first. So many people – famous and not-so-famous – have talked about the subject.

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you,” said Elbert Hubbard. “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain,” said boxing phenomenon Muhammad Ali. “It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

The description of Albert Camus on the subject is apt: “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me, just be my friend.” This brings us to the words of Helen Keller, who said, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

Henri Nouwen, in Out of Solitude: Three Medications on the Christian Life, gives us a lengthy discussion. “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”

Nouwen is referring to a friend, of course. “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

Jon Katz shares his thoughts about friendship. “I think I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you,” he said. “Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”

Gillian Anderson has the same view. She said, “Well, it seems to me that the best relationships – the ones that last – are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who has just a friend is… suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.”

Lydia Denworth, a friendship researcher, said science has found three minimum factors for a quality friendship. She wrote: “It has to have these minimum three things: It’s a stable, longstanding bond; it’s positive; and it’s cooperative – it’s helpful, reciprocal, I’m there for you, you’re there for me.”

Now, let’s discuss about enemies and the like. “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much,” Oscar Wilde once said. To which Abraham Lincoln must have replied, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Now, here’s Wilde again: “I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.” Perhaps, he heard what G.K. Chesterton said before. “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

I am not sure if American crooner Frank Sinatra has the same opinion. “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy,” he said, “but the Bible says love your enemy.”

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “In the New Testament, our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility, for Jesus refuses to reckon with such a possibility. The Christian must treat his enemy as a brother and requite his hostility with love. His behavior must be determined not by the way others treat him, but by the treatment he himself receives from Jesus; it has only one source, and that is the will of Jesus.”

If you have no enemies, it does you no good. Listen to the explanation of Charles Mackay: “Yoi have no enemies, you say? Alas, my friend, the boast is poor. He who has mingled in the fray of duty that the brave endure, must have made foes. If you have none, small is the work that you have done. You’ve hit no traitor on the hip. You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip. You’ve never turned the wrong to right. You’ve been a coward in the fight.”

I think I liked what Sidney Sheldon wrote in his novel, The Other Side of Midnight. “To be successful, you need friends and to be very successful you need enemies.”

That’s a good reminder!

Finally, here’s what Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov: “You will have many enemies, but even your foes will love you. Life will bring you many misfortunes, but you will find happiness in them, and will bless life and will make others bless it – which is what matters most.”

Now, do you know the difference between a friend and an enemy?


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