Love Your Opponents: You Don’t Need to Like Them

by Martin Luther King Jr.  (Jan 18, 2013)

egypt-woman-soldier-kissThere will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all human beings. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system. […]

And this is what Jesus means, I think, when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men and women, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.

Now let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.

I think I mentioned before that sometime ago my brother and I were driving one evening to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta. He was driving the car. And for some reason the drivers were very discourteous that night. They didn’t dim their lights; hardly any driver that passed by dimmed his lights. And I remember very vividly, my brother A. D. looked over and in a tone of anger said: “I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power.” And I looked at him right quick and said: “Oh no, don’t do that. There’d be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.”

Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junkheap of destruction. It is because civilizations fail to have sense enough to dim the lights. And if somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Women and men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.

–Martin Luther King. Jr. in Loving Your Enemies Sermon

About Pancho

To live in radical joyous shared servanthood to unify humanity.
This entry was posted in ahimsa, anarchism, anarchy, fearlessness, natural philosophy, nonviolence, Peace Army, soulforce, WednesdaysOnFridays and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Love Your Opponents: You Don’t Need to Like Them

  1. Pingback: Loving your Enemies- Martin Luther King Jr. | The Pollination Project

  2. paul says:

    “Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.”

    This is a beautiful passage, thank you for sharing it. Not too long ago I was living in a very small community that focused around healing and natural springs. I started my current relationship there and during this process there was another man who had lived there for some time. He developed an intense passive aggressive attitude towards my partner and I and his way of relating to us pushed every ounce of my patience. So much so that there were times that I simply had to blatantly say way from him in fear of provoking physical violence. Now during this period the main investor of the resort took a liking to me and eventually offered me the position of manager. After some careful consideration I realized that I would become my antagonizer’s boss and that this would switch the roles quite dramatically. I was given priority and was told that I could, basically, choose who stays and who goes. Initially I wanted to indulge in the potentials of security, stability, status, control, and to be free from what was perceived as harmful.

    During this time all of the intellectual B.S. around compassion and love went out the window and you could have talked to me all you wanted and convinced me of nothing around what I was supposed to do or say, what was right or leading to well-being. During the period of these emotional troubles was when my partner had a miscarriage and I blamed the toxic environment on him. I could not forgive him for the way he had treated us. I could not forgive him yet I could not continue to play out the story, the game, which was his story, his suffering, his projection of his suffering, and my weakness of mind to take on that story, to be affected. I saw that the only way to be healed was to begin the process of letting go just as life has been teaching me. It would have been all too easy to facilitate and feed this habitual reactive tendency, to play the victim and then respond with violence. And my ego backed it up 100%.

    But wisdom never backs up the ego and there was enough wisdom present to see how moving in the opposite direction is what was needed for me to preserve my integrity, my morality, my humanity. So I packed up and left. I gave it back to him and chose not to play the game. This is not because I outwardly wished him well, I did not like this man. But there were also other factors present. I love myself enough to try to move forward with integrity and morality and this sometimes expresses itself as having love for others……..it took time to see it but I really did want this person to be healed of this destructive and introverted energy. This ability to see was based in the fact that I took the time to facilitate my own healing.

    I am suffering and he is suffering, this is quite simply a reality and once we can see our own it is not so hard to see another’s. But we have very little ability when it comes to others and we have much power and ability when it comes to our self. i am, after all, fully responsible for my thoughts and actions, not his. Once I saw this it was not so hard to bring another in to the picture with more clarity. It became, no longer, just a selfish motivation – otherwise I would have took the job in search of this so-called “security” and followed the standard business model. But how can I secure my future with greedy actions? With anger, with hatred? This is impossible.

    Insight is a necessity for our well being because it helps us understand life on a deep level. When we understand life deeply, deeply touch it, experiencing it with wisdom, then love radiates from our being naturally. Not because we like or agree with anyone but we see the agitation that our own insensitivity brings to ourselves and the world. If we can’t yet see this with-in then our relation to others will be mostly on an intellectual level, a level that is not sustainable.

    When Dr. Martin Luther King has spoken, I don’t just hear is words, I feel his words and insight and gratitude arises in my mind, not thoughts, concepts, ideas, or views, but the feeling of gratitude, peace, and love.

    My we keep well
    and take responsibility for this wellness.
    -paul

  3. ohnwentsya says:

    Reblogged this on 2012 Spirit In Action and commented:
    This is beautiful!
    Now let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.

  4. jeremy says:

    I understand this lesson, but it is most difficult to practice. The logic is simple. Eye for eye makes the whole world blind. But sometimes turning the other cheek hurts, especially when the “enemy” does not appear to have learned anything from our love. Sometimes the effect of our moral courage feels insignificant, and unrecognized by the offender and by society. Loving the enemy is the right thing to do, and the feeling of blessedness is sometimes subtle after those encounters, but we can seek and find that subtle satisfaction and direct our mindfulness toward it, and it grows. Pancho, I imagine most people who meet you love and like you simultaneously.😉

  5. On Jan 17, 2013 sheetal sanghvi wrote:

    Re: [Awakin OAK] Love Your Opponents: You Don’t Need to Like Them
    dearest brothers and sisters of casa de paz,

    i genuinely love the passages you pick every friday.. it awakins the
    love-ful warrior in me.. its time to go out and spread the light of joy,
    love and peace..

    in gratitude for your presence in my life,
    sheetal

    ps: i just want you to know, that i love you… each and every one of you…

  6. Pingback: The Pollination Project – Loving your Enemies- Martin Luther King Jr.

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