Becoming Compassion 3
 
 
The Twelfth Step: Love your Enemies
by Sara Neall
December 17, 2021
 
Karen Armstrong’s final step in her book The 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life is, “love your enemy.” This step is an essential part of living The Golden Rule, “Always treat others as you would wish to be treated.” It is at the heart of all faith traditions.
 
The word enemy is heavy. It conjures up warring nations and historic disputes. However,  the latin word is inimicus. The prefix in means not and the root imicus means friends;  simply, not friends.
 
In this step Armstrong reminds us of the Buddhist practice of Metta or lovingkindness. In the traditional story of Metta, the Buddha sends a group of monks into the forest to meditate. During the daylight hours the monks settle in. They are content to practice among the beauty of the trees. When night draws in, the forest begins to feel forbidding. In the dark, unfamiliar sounds are amplified. The monks become agitated. They get distracted. They can’t get comfortable. They become afraid.  They return to the Buddha and ask him to send them to a different place. He says no, they must return to the dark forest. Before they go however, he gifts them the practice of Metta. 
 
Metta is the practice of friendship. During this practice we offer health, happiness, safety and freedom to 4 different people. These people are, ourself, a loved one, a neutral person and a difficult person. Conjuring these people into our hearts and minds allows us to remember  that everyone, even our 'not-friends' want health, happiness, safety and freedom.
 
Sadly, in 2020 we do not have to travel far to find someone who we disagree with and would no longer consider a friend. People have the capacity for great love and great harm.  The work of committed compassion recognizes suffering and acts to alleviate it. Metta practice keeps deep compassionate work rooted in friendship. It reminds us to always treat others as we would wish to be treated. 
 
In 2021, may we all have the courage to face our fear of ‘the enemy’ and come together to alleviate suffering. 
 
© 2021 Charter for Compassion. All rights reserved.

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