I have often struggled with this universal teaching, and more specifically, with this concept as presented in the Bible through the teachings of Jesus Christ. When first presented with the idea of "loving your enemies," I often find myself going down the road of why do they deserve it?, why should I "waste" my energy to extend love towards people that do not see me favorably?, I have trouble enough loving all the people I feel deserve and reciprocate my love.
You see, the inner dialogue confronted when one begins to explore this concept is certainly not the easiest to simply disregard. Over the years, as I have continued to grow and often stumble in my spiritual practice, in my purpose pursuit of mindful discernment, I have come to see this piece of universal wisdom in a slightly more optimistic and rather "doable" light.
So begs the question
What has led me to see this advice through different eyes?
Where does one actually begin?
In an answer to the first question, I will say more than anything, more than my study of scripture, my daily moments of prayer, my evenings of asana and reflection, what has drawn me to see the act of "loving your enemies" as not only possible, but necessary has been MY PATIENTS.
As clinicians I don't think we pause and reflect enough to recognize what is actually being birthed and transformed in the VERY SPACE between doctor and patient. We can easily forget the immense vulnerability of our patients, often times bearing their deepest traumas and personal self loathing as we sit back and wander off into constructing a differential diagnosis.
For as I see it, "Loving Your Patients" is actually a deep act of "Loving Your Enemies"
What did you just say?
Yes, loving your patients and honoring the vulnerable space that can either be one of healing or one of further fragmentation involves the act Jesus so eloquently taught: Loving your enemies.
Now to bring context to this statement, I am not saying as a clinician and healer, your patients are your enemies, not at all.
What I am actually referring to is much more akin to "Loving Your PROBLEMS" or in this case, the fragmentation and hurt of our patients.
As I mentioned above, as you start to enter the vulnerable space between clinician and patient, you can certainly focus and find the superficial symptoms or other distracting scars, OR you can start to discover the root reasons behind this person's suffering. You can unearth childhood traumas, periods of absent love, acts of self destruction, negative self talk, and the list goes on and on.
Being gentle and loving these potentially destructive and self defeating thoughts, the acts of self sabotage and self care gone astray, loving the aspects of the patient they most desperately wish they no longer possessed requires a deep act of LOVE, and one perhaps, both clinician and patient would choose to just ignore.
When we discover the past trauma, the periods of absent nurturing presence, the fear of our patients, their reactivity, and the projection of our patients' frustration and cynicism into our lives, do not run away, do not get defensive, for YOU HAVE FOUND PRECISELY WHAT NEEDS THE MOST ATTENTION AND LOVE.
Fill the voids of your patients with presence and compassion, be gentle towards the parents, partners or strangers who may have enacted deep acts of hurt or even hatred upon your patient for they too likely suffered the same insults and simply transmitted the fear, the hatred, the loathing into another generation.
As we come to understand the complex world of epigenetics and the regulation of genetic expression, trauma, absence, fear and disdain are not simply transmitted through families as part of deeply embedded and maladaptive psychosocial frameworks, they are altering the expression of our genetic code and changing our core physiology: the terrain itself which the soul must traverse.
As I bring this post to close, I want to bring this back into the universal, extending my description from the clinician and patient dynamic into the world of simple human connection and relation. Every day you will be greeted by antagonists, problems, challenging people and unfortunate circumstances.
What if the next time you are faced with an act of hostility or hurtful misunderstanding, instead of responding to the individual with an equivalent level of hurt and hostility, you start to truly see the place from which the hostility emerged and start asking the questions:
Who hurt you?
Who was not there for you?
What about yourself do you not love and accept?
How can I fill these voids or replace these hurts with love and understanding?
You see, "loving your enemies", or love at all for that matter doesn't have to be about hugs and kisses.
For Love, as He knows it, was never meant to involve touch at all.