Loving the enemy

Image credit: Self-love by Loving Earth, on Flickr. Used via Creative Commons licensing.

“That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy … all these are undoubtedly great virtues … but what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of the beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of …the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?” ~Carl Jung

Yes, what then? This is an excellent question. And oddly enough, the question itself has given me a hint toward finding an answer to a bigger question that has been haunting me: how do I learn to love myself when I can find nothing that looks lovable to me?

I have no problem at all with the idea that I could find the most grievous offenders, the most needy of souls, and the ugliest of fiends within me. I’ve never had much trouble locating and being aware of my many faults. (And if I ever miss any, there is usually someone around who is more than willing to point out my blind spots!)

Instead, my struggle has always been with self-love. I hear and read so much about the importance of loving oneself but it’s not always clear how to go about doing that. How do I love a self that I often find so ugly and unlovable? How do I look past all my failings to find someone worth loving?

This quote makes me think that perhaps I’ve had it all backwards. Maybe the goal shouldn’t be about finding something in myself worth loving. Perhaps the real goal is to love myself even when I can’t find anything lovable at all.

After all, is that not what we sometimes must do with our enemies? We only discover what is loveable about them once we have already learned to look at them with eyes of love.

Perhaps that’s really the key to self-love too: learning to love even that within myself that does not seem loveable. Just as is true with our enemies, maybe the kindness and the love come first.

Of course, I’ve never been all that good at loving my enemies either, so this doesn’t give me much of a head start on learning to love the parts of myself that I don’t like very much. Nevertheless, the clue that I have been going at it all backwards is an important one. It means that I can refocus my attention from trying to find things about myself that are loveable to simply loving myself no matter what.

And in all truth, I probably am kinder to my enemies much of the time than I am to myself. So if I can’t make it all the way to loving the fiend within, perhaps I can at least start with being a bit kinder? It’s worth a try.

How do you treat the parts of yourself that you don’t admire very much? Are you able to love yourself even when you see things in yourself that you don’t find very loveable?


  1. I have been dealing with something similar this morning, and your post has helped me clarify what I have been feeling. From time to time, I will be seized by a strong case of the “what ifs.” No matter what fear or doubt tries to command my attention, the underlying issue is one of trusting myself.

    To me, trusting myself goes hand in hand with loving myself. Then, the issue morphs into levels of awareness, and I have to remind myself that all of my actions reflect my level of awareness in any moment. It is when I examine being mindful/aware that being kind to myself makes the most sense for if I am not kind to myself, how will I treat anyone else? If I am being patient and kind to myself, I have a much better chance of being mindful in my life.

    While I still fall into some old patterns, I recognize them much more quickly. The moment of recognition is a moment of awareness–I can feel it physically and it is warm–it is as if I am bringing myself back to myself to begin again. There is no self-recrimination, only a feeling of re-immersing myself in the moment to be and do better.

    Great post, Kenetha. You really helped me this morning, and that is much appreciated.

    1. Thanks so much for this, Karen! Your observation that “If I am being patient and kind to myself, I have a much better chance of being mindful in my life.” is a powerful one. I instinctively recognize this as true even though I had not considered it before. It give me much to ponder.

      I’m so glad to hear that my post was helpful to you today in your situation, and I am so grateful for your sharing of that here!

  2. Kenetha, this is a really good post.

    What I find helped me so much was coming to the understanding that I am a manifestation of Divinity. My body, and that includes all the stuff, body, brain, and all the chemically generated emotions and stuff, are Her temple. And by hating or hurting myself, I am doing that to Her. It took me a long time to find some way to look at myself lovingly. A long time. But figuring this out seems to make a big difference.

    I loved Karen’s comment, “I have to remind myself that all of my actions reflect my level of awareness in any moment.”

    Forgiveness is so important too.

    1. Thanks, Marg! I really appreciate you sharing your own journey with this. I can see the benefits of seeing myself as a manifestation of Her, but I’m still not at a place where that is a reality for me. I’ve come a long way in being able to love myself, but some days are still better than others and some parts of me are still easier to love than others. I continue to be work in progress. :)

      I, too, loved that comment of Karen’s. She is a very wise woman (as are you), and she has taught me much about the value of awareness through her blog.

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