Becoming Your Enemy

When you fight someone, you take on that person's qualities. You become that person. You become your enemy. And your enemy wins because now there's another one of him in the world.

If your enemy uses sarcasm, you will start to become sarcastic yourself. If your enemy distorts, exaggerates, conceals -- you'll start to rationalize such behavior of your own. If your enemy is mean and personal and insulting and rude, you will start to act that way, too. You think you're resisting your enemy, but actually you are yielding to him -- not on the points under discussion but on the subtext, the attitude, the stance.

Turning the other cheek or using a gentle answer to turn away wrath is not pie-in-the-sky idealism but practical advice for personal relationships. I'm not saying it would work in a war or a battle with terrorists or criminals, but in situations where the stakes are nothing more than victory in an argument, the best strategy is to smile and walk away.

Thinking you have to convince or defeat your enemy makes him the most important thing in your world.

And fighting someone engages your ego -- all your left-brain hypervigilant defensive skills. The voracious ego will eat you up if you let it.

Besides, fighting the enemy is what the enemy wants. The enemy is defined by battles and struggles. If you define yourself the same way, then you are becoming your enemy.

What your enemy does not want is for you to say politely, "I guess we'll have to agree to disagree." This is the ultimate putdown. It means, "I don't care enough about your opinion to bother arguing with you." More succinctly: "I don't need to think about you."

Argument breeds anger and eventually hatred. Your enemy stews in his own juices thinking of ways to humiliate you. You stew in your own juices thinking of ways to humiliate him. You have become your enemy.

And since you can't actually take out your anger on your enemy, you take it out on yourself. You create tension and fatigue in your own body. You turn against yourself. You literally treat yourself as an enemy.

Time that could be spent positively, constructively, creatively, or just restfully, is spent on anger and fantasizing and strategizing. Scheming replaces creative thought. Revenge fantasies replace healthy imagination. Your enemy becomes your whole world. You see him everywhere, even in the mirror. He's always with you. He's part of you. He is you.

In most arguments you can never win. You can only lose. And you lose by becoming your enemy. That's what he wants.

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