Turning Enemies Into Allies

by Andy Wood on September 8, 2011

in Esteem, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Pleasers, Protecting Your Investment

Have you ever been in a situation where somebody hated you just for showing up?  Maybe you did something really stupid or offensive.  Maybe they hate everybody who shows up.  Maybe they’re picking up somebody else’s offense or acting out long-held prejudices.  Regardless of what set it off, the bottom line is, they don’t like you.

And what’s not to like, right?

Everybody with any intelligence can see how awesome you are.  And yet some arrogant bozo (or bozette) won’t give you the time of day.  Or worse, is outwardly hostile.

What do you do?

Do you out-hostile them?  Or practice your own version of the Cold War?

Do you fire up your iPod with your favorite Willie Whiner and His All-Reject Orchestra tunes and have a pity party?

Do you ask God to whup ‘em or smite ‘em?

Or do you use this as an occasion to facilitate growth, understanding, renewal, and – dare I say it? – respect and friendship?

Don’t Be Shocked That You Have Enemies

I’m a people pleaser (surprise, surprise) and I really want people to like me.  So it always comes as something of a shock or disappointment when they don’t.  Unless, of course, I’ve done something to deserve it.  But even then, I’m quick to apologize, so that makes everything all right, doesn’t it?

Um, no.  And it took me a long time to accept that.  I still don’t like it.  But the truth is, the broken world we live in will always provide a steady stream of applicants for the job of your main pain.

Doesn’t matter how innocent you are.

Doesn’t matter how guilty you are.

Walk in the Spirit – you’ll have enemies.  Walk in the flesh – you’ll have enemies.

Sit down for this one… Walk in the church house – you’ll have enemies.

Avoid church like the plague – you’ll have enemies.

Enemies are like ants.  Stomp on their nest and you’ll really make them angry.  But leave them completely alone, and they’ll still come crawling into your life.

Why Does This Even Matter?

So why not just fight fire with fire?  Out-hustle the hostile?

That’s certainly an option, and some people choose it.  And they die sooner, fail more, and live with a sourer disposition and gloomy outlook in the process.

They also miss some important opportunities along the way.  What if I were to tell you that your greatest potential for reward required that you go through your enemies to get it?  What if I were to tell you that your ability to make peace revealed more Christ-like character than any other one thing you could possibly do?

I find it interesting that the most hated Man who ever lived was also the most loving Man who ever lived.  And He made it clear – character is measured, not by how you treat those who love you, but by how you respond to those who don’t.

Building Bridges Instead of Walls

Here are some ideas, based on scripture and my own experience, for kindling love and respect in your relationships with hostile people:

1.  Don’t rush it. This is where some people pleasers mess up right off the bat.  In an effort to fix things quickly, they rush in like a bull in a china shop with an ice floor.  But like a treasure hidden in a block of ice, some things just need time to thaw.  Give it time.  Give God time.

2.  Look for common ground. Look for points of agreement, or a language of common value, and use it. In the majority of situations, you may be surprised to find that you have more in common with your enemy than you know, and certainly more than you have differences.  This common ground may be ideas, opinions, experiences, or shared interests.

3.  Live out the higher values of the person who despises you. This is especially true if you have offended someone through some sort of personal failure.  If they hate hypocrites, for example, here’s a thought:  Don’t be one.  If they value faithfulness or integrity, spend lots of time modeling this.  Don’t compromise your relationship with God at this point, but look for what constitutes the noblest of your enemy’s values, and as much as you can, live them.

4.  Allow for social time to practice being nice. Look for opportunities to see them in public (much as you may dread it).  And for crying out loud, be nice when you do see them.  Speak kindly, act graciously, serve when possible, love always.

5.  Allow yourself to be needed by them. People’s hearts turn when they are allowed to serve or to act kindly in the areas where they do it best.  That may mean their place of business or some other area of expertise.  Ask for help, or for advice.  Their anger may still be smoldering on the inside, but their (good kind of) pride will do the talking on the outside.

6.  Cultivate a life of pleasing God. “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).  Focus on what you have the most control over, which is your own growth, healing, and finding ways to remain faithful.  Over time, even the hardest of relationships can come around.

7.  Look for ways to meet a need of theirs in kindness. Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;  For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you.”  Acting in kindness means meeting the need because it is a need, not to create a sense of obligation in them.  But kindness expressed on that level can actually create a sense of obligation to rethink their opinion of you.

8.  Speak well of them. “Bless those who curse you,” Jesus said.  To bless is to speak well of, and it is a powerful force in bringing healing to a relationship.

9.  Pray for them and about the relationship. Jesus specifically said to pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).  Sometimes that changes them. Always, it changes you.

10.  Have the courage to ask God to show you your own blind spots. Often in our fixation of how mean an opponent is, we lose focus on what Jesus called the “log in our own eye” (Matthew 7:3).  Maybe someone doesn’t like you because you’re rude or insensitive or completely unaware of how you come across.  Time for some eye-opening, and maybe some knee-walking or forgiveness seeking.


Reconciled enemies don’t often become best friends.  But they can become trusted allies and sources of great value to you as you seek to create a compelling future.  In all your investing of time, talent, and treasure, I dare you… invest in an enemy or two.  You’ll be amazed at the return on your investment.

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