One Way We Avoid Ourselves
One effective way to avoid our own dark shadows is to hide behind the bright and obvious faults of someone else.
The following transparent and honest illustration from Dan Allender in his article, Loving Our Enemies: A Look at Why We Wrongly Love Our Enemies (1995), reveals the ways and reasons we unite with one another around a common enemy. It is remarkably insightful and scarily revealing.
If we look honestly at ourselves, we’ll see we are all guilty of this. It would be wise for us to take Dan’s words to heart.
My friend and I spent many of our lunches talking about Darren. He was a coworker on a church project. He was glib, insincere, and manipulative. He worked hard and did his work well, but he was not "one of us." At least we did not want him to be part of us. After many, many lunches my friend finally said: "We've got to stop talking about Darren. He seems like the prime reason we get along…" My friend cut to the quick of why enemies are so loved: they provide unity without requiring true humanity. They provide the basis of intimacy through the agency of contempt.
My friend and I were just beginning our friendship. We seemed to share many of the same likes and dislikes, and like many men, we related on a warm but bantering basis. It would have been very difficult for me to talk about where I felt afraid, alone, confused, or hurt. It would have been nearly impossible to truly receive my friend's delight and care. But we could (and did) feel connected and close when we violated Darren with contempt. My friend hated pretentious know-it-alls, and he always knew who was one. I joined him in the thrill of finding fault…
An enemy shared between friends provides the grisly ingredients for a banquet of contempt. We can laugh—humoring ourselves with his foibles and foolishness—and lauding ourselves with our courage and wisdom. In the din of the meal, we never need to face that our enjoyment of each other is grounded in hatred.
Intimacy based on hatred will always be intense and insecure. It requires greater proof of loyalty in order to insure continual re-election to the inner circle. I cannot express doubt, confusion, hurt or loneliness because the others may see me as a weak link that may break in the battle with the enemy. And so subterfuge takes priority over honesty; mockery over compassion; gossip over blessing and; vengeance over mercy.
To the degree that intimacy is based on hatred of a mutual enemy, I will become inhuman. The enemy seems to justify my flight from vulnerability and necessitate my self-protection.
An enemy also gives us another reason to remain together that goes beyond dark intimacy: our enemies give us a mission that allows us to feel powerful and necessary without ever needing to face our own pride and self-righteousness.