Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

October 2013

Loving the Enemy

I was warned, but I didn’t listen. “The higher you go up the ladder, the more folks will take potshots at you,” a mentor advised. One of the most important attributes of an effective leader is a thick skin.

I’m not a man who easily makes enemies, but when I ran a public relations agency in Atlanta, I made a few.  Two immediately come to mind. Both worked at the agency at different times, and neither had much respect for me.

“Randy has no vision,” one man complained to my staff. “He’s way over his head,” said the other.

I’ve heard it said that we love other people because of the way they make us feel about ourselves; the same can be said for hate. I felt exposed and vulnerable. I also felt shame. Much of what they said was true.

I’ve been wondering if I’d react differently today? I hope I could be less defended and could take their words to heart.

Paul Ferrini offers this sage advice in his wonderful book,I Am the Door: “Peace does not come through the agreement of egos, for it is impossible for egos to agree. Peace comes when love and mutual respect are present. Then your enemy becomes like a friend who is not afraid to disagree with you. You do not cast her out of your heart because she thinks differently from you. You listen carefully to what she has to say.” Looking back, I see I could have learned a lot from both these men.

Ferrini continues: “Your enemy reflects back to you everything that you do not like about yourself. He shows you exactly where your fears and insecurities lie. Only one who opposes you thus can be such an effective teacher. When you learn to love your enemy, you demonstrate your willingness to look at all the dark places with your mind. Your enemy is a mirror into which you look until the angry face that you see smiles back at you.”

As much as I’d like to wave a wand and have it otherwise, I still see these two as enemies, but any hate is diminishing. I’m beginning to realize it’s not these two men whom I hate, but rather myown shame.

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