1. It is not possible unless one first loves God. Jesus gave us the clue when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength and with all thy soul, and thy neighbor as thyself.” If you love God with your whole being, then you will love your neighbor, even though he be an enemy. Such love is a gift of the Holy Spirit abiding in us.
2. “Do good to them that hate you,” said Jesus. St. Paul says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink… . overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20-21). Do something good for your enemy and it will surprise you to find how much easier it will be to love him. It will help him remove the bitterness from his heart. But overcoming evil with good means that we must take the first step; we must begin by doing some kind act. “That enemy is best defeated who is defeated by kindness.”
A wise physician said once, “I have been practicing medicine for 30 years, and I have prescribed many things. But in the long run I have learned that for most of what ails the human creature, the best medicine is love.”
“What if it doesn’t work?” he was asked.
“Double the dose,” he replied.
3. Jesus says, “Pray for them who … persecute you.” Remember them on your knees. Name them quietly and kindly in the most secret place. Offer them the highest privilege it is in your power to grant — the privilege of being remembered when you are face to face with God. No person can pray for another and still hate him. One of the best ways of killing bitterness is to pray for the man we are tempted to hate.
4. Look for some good in your enemy. There is good as well as bad in the worst of us. Fr. John of Kronstadt writes: “When your brother sins against you in any way — for instance, if he speaks ill of you, or transmits with an evil intention your words in a perverted form to another, or calumniates you — do not be angered against him, but seek to find in him those good qualities which undoubtedly exist in every man, and dwell lovingly on them, despising his evil calumnies concerning you as dross, not worth attention, as an illusion of the Devil. The gold-diggers do not pay any attention to the quantity of sand and dirt in the gold-dust, but only look for the grains of gold; and though they are few, they value this small quantity, and wash it out of heaps of useless sand. God acts in a like manner with us, cleansing us with great and long forbearance.”
5. Do good, pray, look for the good in your enemy, and finally develop the capacity to forgive. Without forgiveness it is impossible even to begin the act of loving one’s enemies. This forgiveness must begin with the one who has been wronged. Only the injured person can pour out the warm waters of forgiveness. Here is an example:
On April 9, 1968 — the day of Martin Luther King’s funeral — a white bus driver named Martin Whitted was pulled out of his bus in San Francisco by eleven black youths who savagely beat him and left him mortally wounded. He died shortly thereafter. Tension rose in the black and white communities. Rumors of violence began to spread. Then Dixie Whitted, the bus driver’s widow, appeared on television. Her reaction to her husband’s murder was something moving, something extraordinary, something not of this world. Quietly she spoke of her love for her husband and her faith in Christ. She told the people to refrain from violence, to be peacemakers instead. Through the power of Christ, she said, she had no bitterness or hate. She asked that a memorial fund be established not for herself but for all the young people in the area where her husband was killed.
The results of her compassionate act were electric. Cynical television crewmen cried. A Stanford coed called in to say that her whole life was changed by this Christian witness. A prisoner, who identified himself as a negro, wrote to Mrs. Whitted: “I owe you a debt. You have never known me but because of your way, your deep understanding, the beauty of your refusal to hate … I’ll never be able again to hate collectively all white men. What a monument you and your children are to your husband’s memory.”
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”