I was a little surprised by Dharma's choice of topic. I have many snake friends, and I think they're swell, so I didn't really understand why he thought I would tease them when they got old. But in typical Dharma fashion, he gently pointed out the error in my thinking. Snakes and frogs are, for the most part, enemies but even when we know they potentially mean danger to us, we can still be treat them with respect and courtesy. "It's all about learning to love our enemies. For just like the young snake that torments the frog, that frog will come back to return the torment when the snake is no longer quick. It's a vicious cycle that never ends. Isn't it far better for it to never start?" asked Dharma. And, of course, I could see he was right.
Learning to love our enemies is one of life's greatest challenges. And loving our enemies has nothing to do with religion; it's the universal problem of hate for that which is different from us and it's found in every frog, and every human. The problem is, that hatred swells up in us and causes destructive actions. It's usually directed at others who, in some way, we feel feel threatened by, or who have harmed us in some way. But in the end, we are all fellow amphibians (or in your case humans) who must coexist in a common society. Most of us have someone in our life that we hate...or at the very least, can't stand to be around. Does that hate make us proud or happy? I'm pretty sure the answer is a resounding NO! That hatred, anger, and resentment that lives within us is destructive and counterproductive.
Dharma broke down his lesson into two parts;
1. What does "Love Your Enemy" mean? Your enemy doesn't have to be the Big-Picture enemy, like terrorists, although they certainly would qualify. No, it usually someone smaller and closer to home; someone who's a constant source of irritation to us, like a pebble in our flipper. What does it mean to love these people? It's not a romantic kind of love, certainly. It's more of a love for your fellow human being (or fellow frog); those with whom we share the same community, neighborhood, school, work...maybe even home. To love your enemy, then, means to put aside any wrongs and love them as a fellow sentient being. This doesn't have to mean being all gushy...after all, they'll never be your BFF, but it does mean having gentler feeling towards them and, perhaps, even a kind word (or two) or simply a smile. It's not easy, but with practice, it can be accomplished. This brings up Dharma's second point.
2. Why should I love my enemy? It's difficult to find a reason to love someone that we perceive as having done us harm or injustice. I mean, why on earth would I want to love THEM? There are many good and valid reasons to love them, though. Probably enough to fill a book, but here are some of the best reasons; A) We'll be happier. Hate and discontent are exhausting. Inwardly, they're self-destructive; they eat us up. And our anger affects everyone around us. Feeling bad about another never makes us feel good. And who among us doesn't want to feel happier? B) You could change that person's life. Hate and discontent begets more hate and discontent. Sure, it can seem nice, at first, to be vindictive but that feeling doesn't last long. Hurting another person is always a bad thing. And doing some small thing to make them happier can, interestingly enough, make us happier in the process. It's a big win-win. C) You could make a friend. This might not always be the case, but Dharma likes to remain optimistic. But having someone as an acquaintance is far better than having them as an enemy. D) We can set a better example for others. Our actions can set an example for others in our life. Showing others how to overcome hate and anger is one of the greatest lessons we can teach. E) It's better for society. This seems obvious, to me anyway, but the truth is that not everyone sees it this way. Peace begins at home and spreads outwards. We can learn to overcome fear and hatred of others, and when we learn to love our neighbors (even those right under our very nose) we make the world a little nicer and a little kinder, And who's not in favor of that? And lastly...
F) It's a test of ourselves as people (or frogs, in my case). We all like to think of ourselves as being good. But how good are we, actually, if we can only love certain ones? A better test of goodness is whether or not we are able to overcome our differences and begin to love those that we see as our enemy. Perhaps underneath it all, they're not as bad, or as evil, as we first thought. But we'll never know if we don't give them a chance. Learning to love our enemies is a life-long challenge but one that's certainly a worthy undertaking.
In closing today's lesson, Dharma left me with a few simple tips for learning to love our enemy. 1. Stop, breathe, and detach yourself from the situation first, before reacting. 2. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to see the situation through their eyes. 3. Seek to understand where they're coming from. Everyone's version of the situation is different. 4. Seek to accept. Accepting doesn't mean agreeing with, it simply means being open to the ideas and viewpoints that aren't necessarily our own. And Dharma saved the best for last.
5. Forgive and let the past go. It serves no purpose for us to hang on to ill will. What's done is done so why let it fester up inside which can cause us stress and even health issues. And you'd be surprised how freeing it is to release the resentment.
Today's lesson was longer than Dharma's usual ones, but I can see why he chose today to teach it. There's a lot of pain and suffering here at home. And around the world, too. Perhaps it's time to let bygones be bygones and try to live in peace and harmony. I know that things everywhere need to change. And I know that change begins with me. How about you?