Editor's note: The earliest roots of the word "enemy" are in the Latin word inimicus "an enemy," literally "an unfriend." Given that spiritual practice often turns normal cultural behavior on its head, it is not surprising that many of the quotes below concern how the gap between "enemy" and "friend" can be bridged. This is never more true than within our selves where the roots of all enmity — and all peace — begin. We hope this varied selection of quotes brings you closer to that great peace to which those of sound mind and heart aspire.


Alchemically Transformed
“There is no more powerful medicine than the practice of loving our enemy. The extent to which we are outraged is a measure of the transformative power that will be released when we surrender to the healing response of love. No potion, talisman, incantation, or spiritual ally can come close to the Earth-shaking power of the shamanic practice of loving those who are most difficult to love. This is where the heart becomes an instrument of alchemy and transforms noxious odors into nectars of the gods. Here darkness is turned into the golden rainbow body of luminous wisdom.”
— Bradford Keeney in Shamanic Christianity

“When you look deeply into your anger, you will see that the person you call your enemy is also suffering. As soon as you see that, the capacity of accepting and having compassion for him is there. Jesus called this ‘loving your enemy.’ When you are able to love your enemy, he or she is no longer your enemy. The idea of ‘enemy’ vanishes and is replaced by the notion of someone who is suffering and needs your compassion.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ

“In the ritual of a formal Zen meal, a portion of the grain and a sip of tea are offered to the demons and spirits. It never hurts to appease the demonic and hungry parts of the soul, to have empathy for the neglected, the mad, the beggar on the street. In meditation, we offer our time — the fluid of our very life — to the demons.”
— John Tarrant in The Light Inside the Dark

Bonded with Other Enemies
“Enemies ‘need’ each other to dispose of their accumulated, disowned, psychological toxins. We form a hate bond, an ‘adversarial symbiosis,’ an integrated system that guarantees that neither of us will be faced with our own shadow.”
— Sam Keen in Faces of the Enemy

Conductors of Awakening
“My enemy helps me in my conduct of awakening.”
— His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

“Therefore, just like treasure appearing in my house
Without any effort on my part to obtain it,
I should be happy to have an enemy
For he assists me in my conduct of awakening.”
— Shantideva in Healing Anger by His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Ever Around the Corner for the Fearful
“The movement from hostility to hospitality is full of difficulties. Our society seems to be increasingly full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people anxiously clinging to their property and inclined to look at their surrounding world with suspicion, always expecting an enemy to suddenly appear, intrude, and do harm.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen in Ministry and Spirituality

“To begin the work of creating a culture of inclusion we must first recognize that we live in a culture of exclusion. Early on we learn to label others as ‘outsiders,' while seeking to make ourselves ‘insiders.' We turn our backs on so many. We exclude women and children. We exclude those whose skin color is different from our own. We exclude lesbians and gays, or the disabled, or the elderly, or people of different faith traditions. We exclude immigrants, or prisoners, or death row inmates, or the unborn, or the homeless, or refugees. And by definition, we exclude our enemies.”
— John Dear in Living Peace

A Form of the Beloved
“God commands us to ‘know the heart of a stranger’ (Exodus 23:9) and to feel solidarity with the stranger, for you, too, know what it is to be a stranger. To know the stranger is to know the enemy. To know the enemy is to know your own heart. To know your own heart is to know that God is both self and stranger, friend and foe. This knowing fills you with a deep and abiding courage and joy, and it is this joy that embraces the stranger and invites her or him to come to God through you.”
— Rami Shapiro in Hasidic Tales

“As long as the 'I' puts itself between us, the other, and the world, we will not even know the taste of the world to come. Thus, we must know how to bear giving over our 'I' to the greatest number of representatives of this 'beloved,' whether in the form of lover, friend, companion, neighbor, other, or even enemy.”
— Nilton Bonder in The Kabbalah of Envy

Future Buddhas
“If you practice the ignorant (arrogant) mind, you start to dislike everyone. An ignorant mind is an unhealthy mind, and it is a source of disaster, misfortune, and no wisdom. It presents darkness to the mind and sufferings to the body. An ignorant person treats himself like his own enemy.

“Instead, see everyone as a Buddha. You will discover many of Buddha's actions from these numerous future Buddhas, and you will be able to learn from them.”
— Jae Woong Kim in Polishing the Diamond, Enlightening the Mind

Guides to Self-Acceptance
" ‘Love your enemy as yourself’ is not so much a perfectionistic moral injunction as it is a revelation of the only possible path toward self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

“The first rule for discovering the treasure hidden in the images of the enemy is this: Listen to what the enemy says about you, and you will learn the truth you have repressed. To come to greater self-understanding, borrow the eyes of the alien, see yourself from afar. Let the familiar become strange and the strange familiar — the two rules of creativity. Look with suspicion on the rhetoric of your nation and listen with compassion to the reason of the enemy.
— Sam Keen in Faces of the Enemy

“Strange as it may seem, liking an enemy is the path that may lead us to liking our own selves. Thus we find that this phrase from the future — loving our neighbor as we would ourselves — is, like everything that comes from the future, totally interactive. There is no way to like another person without liking oneself, nor of liking oneself without liking another. This interdependence originates in the structure of Creation itself.”
— Nilton Bonder in The Kabbalah of Envy

Human Beings Like You
“Your enemies may disagree with you, may be harming you, but in another aspect, they are still human beings like you. They also have the right not to suffer and to find happiness. If your empathy can extend out like that, it is unbiased, genuine compassion.”
— His Holiness The Dalai Lama in A Heart Full of Peace by Joseph Goldstein

"Is anger the only motivation that can energize us to correct harmful situations? According to Buddhism, it is not. Compassion — the wish for others to be free from difficulties and confusion — is not only a powerful motivator, but also one that is more balanced, realistic, and effective than anger. ...

"For many years, I have lived in the Northwest part of the USA, where deforestation is commonplace. When it occurred near a retreat center our spiritual community regularly used, witnessing the deforestation was particularly painful, and some retreatants were hostile whenever a logging truck drove by. But a bumper-sticker saying 'Hug a logger instead of a tree' made me think, 'The loggers want to be happy and avoid suffering just like the deer they are displacing and the retreatants who miss the forest. Many of them probably do not like their work. I may disagree with the policies of the companies who employ them, but I don't need to hate either the CEOs or the loggers.' Although I continued to sign anti-logging petitions and oppose deforestation, I began to wave to the loggers who drove by. Why not? They smiled and waved back."
— Thubten Chodron in Working with Anger

In Need of Demythologizing
“If we desire peace, each of us must begin to demythologize the enemy; cease politicizing psychological events; re-own our shadows; make an intricate study of the myriad ways in which we disown, deny, and project our selfishness, cruelty, greed, and so on onto others; be conscious of how we have unconsciously created a warrior psyche and have perpetuated warfare in its many modes:

“1. The civil war within the self — the enemy within, agonizing self-consciousness, the struggle between ‘I should’ and ‘I want,’ the battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ parts of the self.
2. The war between the sexes — combat in the erogenous zones, the creation of familiar enemies, the practice of seduction, rape, one-upmanship. The sadist-masochist in sexual and familiar relationships, the practice of superiority-inferiority, winners and victims.
3. The political war between Us and Them — how our psyches have been shaped by the consensual paranoia and the standard propaganda of our society and by the barrage of images of the enemy.
4. The battle against nature, life — the measure in which we have a propensity to identify ourselves ‘against,’ to assume that we must struggle, control, dominate, in order to be safe; the mistrust of self, others, life.”
— Sam Keen in Faces of the Enemy

Intimately Linked with Forgiveness
“Take forgiveness. Two levels here. One level: forgiveness means you shouldn't develop feelings of revenge. Because revenge harms the other person, therefore it is a form of violence. With violence, there is usually counterviolence. This generates even more violence — the problem never goes away. So that is one level. Another level: forgiveness means you try not to develop feelings of anger toward your enemy. Anger doesn't solve the problem. Anger only brings uncomfortable feelings to yourself. Anger destroys your own peace of mind. Your happy mood never comes, not while anger remains. I think that's the main reason why we should forgive. With calm mind, more peaceful mind, more healthy body. An agitated mind spoils our health, very harmful for body. This is my feeling.”
— His Holiness The Dalai Lama in The Wisdom of Forgiveness by Victor Chan

“Jesus said,
‘Your sins are forgiven;
rise and walk.’
Forgiveness is an unlocked door
to walk through
into a wide-whoopee-open world.
Forgiveness is a seed
to water with new dreams and wild risks
until it bears unexpected fruit.
Forgiveness is an enemy-friend
to be born out of,
a quietness beneath the clamor.
Forgiveness is a flower to smell,
a wind at my back,
a gull to scream with,
a pain to laugh beneath,
a burden that carries me.
It is I
becoming We
becoming Yours.
Forgiveness is a song to sing.
O Lord,
unlock the door of my heart.”
— Ted Loder in Guerrillas of Grace

“It was August 1979, my birthday month as well as the month of Sanvatsari — the great Jain festival of forgiveness. During this month, all Jains celebrate the annual event of total reconciliation by forgiving and begging forgiveness of all creatures. This I had been taught as a way of healing wounded relationships. If I had harmed any man or woman, any animal or plant, I begged their forgiveness. If I had, knowingly or unknowingly, shown any disrespect or disregard for humans and nonhumans, I sought their forgiveness. Through this act I retrieved all my offensive and careless thoughts, words, and deeds. In a similar spirit, if I had been hurt by anyone in any way, I forgave them totally and utterly. I declared my friendship with all beings, I had no enemy.”
— Satish Kumar in Path Without Destination

“When you forgive your enemy
When you feed the hungry
When you defend the weak
you believe in the resurrection.
When you have the courage to marry
When you welcome the newly-born child
When you build your home
you believe in the resurrection.
When you wake at peace in the morning
When you sing to the rising sun
When you go to work with joy
you believe in the resurrection.
Belief in the resurrection means filling life with faith
it means believing in your brother,
it means fearlessness towards all.”
— Carlo Carretto in Blessed Are You Who Believed

Kept Away by a Good Heart
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away; a good heart a day keeps the enemy away.”
— Lama Yeshe in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

Not Necessarily Pain
“Our entire culture looks upon pain as an enemy, and teaches us to do anything, anything to get away from it. We're wrapped up in trying to evade pain, sometimes through numbing out with addiction, sometimes through an unwholesome obsession with avoiding pain altogether.

“But most of us won't be able to avoid pain forever. At some point in our lives, perhaps when we are dying, there may be great pain — and actually, pain can be our greatest teacher, once we stop frantically fleeing its presence. We need to know what to do with pain: how to see it, how to work with it. And it really helps if we can use our experiences of pain right now to prepare us for what's ahead.”
— Joan Halifax in Being with Dying

“When you understand that suffering is your teacher, it's no longer the enemy you have to conquer.”
— Ezra Bayda in Saying Yes to Life

Not Always Who We Think They Are
“How tragic it is that they who have nothing to express are continually expressing themselves, like nervous gunners, firing burst after burst of ammunition into the dark, where there is no enemy. The reason for their talk is: death. Death is the enemy who seems to confront them at every moment in the deep darkness and silence of their own being. So they keep shouting at death. They confound their lives with noise. They stun their own ears with meaningless words, never discovering that their hearts are rooted in a silence that is not death but life. They chatter themselves to death, fearing life as if it were death.”
— Thomas Merton in Seeds by Thomas Merton, Robert Inchausti, editor

Our Lack of Acceptance
“Maybe the only enemy is that we don't like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
— Pema Chodron in When Things Fall Apart

“The Buddha's path did not focus on desire as an enemy to be conquered but rather as an energy to be perceived correctly.”
— Mark Epstein in Open to Desire

“I ... gratefully recognized how darkness has become less of an enemy for me and more of a place of silent nurturance, where the slow, steady gestation needed for my soul's growth can occur. Not only is light a welcomed part of my life, but I am also developing a greater understanding of how much I need to befriend my inner darkness.”
— Joyce Rupp in Little Pieces of Light

Our Own Perfectionism
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.”
— Anne Lamott in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

“The greater light you have, the greater shadow you often cast, C.G. Jung said. Maybe this is why Peter is consistently presented as a flawed and ordinary human being, while still proclaimed by Jesus to be a rock. Ordinary men and women can and should serve as our mentors. They need to be spotted, sought out, and supported as such. We need to set up our own ‘Tuesdays with Morrie,’ as times to be taught, and not wait for experts or official classes. The search for the perfect is usually the enemy of the truly good. You can take that as an axiom for all of life.”
— Richard Rohr in Adam's Return

Our Teachers
“Enemies are important people, because they can show and tell us things about ourselves that friends can't or won't. In the next life, your enemy will be your hevruta — your study partner — because he can teach you the most. ... If we mend our relationship with our enemies, we can learn."
— Nilton Bonder in Working on God by Winifred Gallagher

“Without enemies you could not fully engage in the practice of patience — tolerance and forbearance. We need enemies, and should be grateful to them. From the viewpoint of training in altruism, an enemy is really your guru, your teacher; only an enemy can teach you tolerance. An enemy is the greatest teacher of altruism, and for that reason, instead of hating, we must respect him.”
— His Holiness The Dalai Lama in How to Expand Love

“How can we love our enemy? There is only one way — to understand him. We have to understand why he is that way, how he has come to be like that, why he does not see things the way we do. Understanding a person brings us the power to love and accept him. And the moment we love and accept him, he ceases to be our enemy. To ‘love our enemy’ is impossible, because the moment we love him, he is no longer our enemy.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ

An Outlet for National Vengeance
“War provides an outlet for national vengeance.
It satisfies the demands of fear.
It brings power to the victor.
It provides security to the homeland.
It opens an avenue for getting what you want by force.

“By contrast, living in peace one breathes easily. There is space to allow for connections with other people. Arguments proceed with mutual respect for either side. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa lived different aspects of peace. We learned from each that the way of peace can end suffering and oppression, not by warring against an enemy but by bearing witness to wrongs, and by allowing sympathy and common humanity to do their patient work. War smothers all of that.”
— Deepak Chopra in Peace Is the Way

“In awakened awareness we are also able to see others as whole, despite their burdens and difficulties. The Buddha said that the near enemy to compassion is pity. To pity others is to demean them in one's own mind. Feeling compassion for others in their struggles and problems is recognizing their undiminished radiant nature while at the same time offering sympathy and comfort. None of us like to be pitied, but most of us appreciate compassion and being seen as whole despite our problems.”
— Catherine Ingram in Passionate Presence

Potential Friends
“Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen in Ministry and Spirituality

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr. in Thank You for Being Such a Pain by Mark I. Rosen

“Every time I see love triumph over hate or an enemy turned into a friend, there's a resurrection going on.”
— Johnny Youngblood in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection

Related to Our State of Mind
“We become angry at everything that appears to our senses, everyone and everything we see. This state is known in the Buddhist teachings as ‘all appearances arising as the enemy.’

“What is the alternative to this state? The great eleventh-century meditator Milarepa is normally pictured keeping his right hand at his ear in a gesture of listening. This is because everything appeared to Milarepa in the form of advice; everything appeared as a teaching. For skillful meditators with well-trained minds, instead of all appearances arising as the enemy, they actually appear as the opposite: as a friend and a teacher.”
— Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Transforming Problems into Happiness

“Absolute bodhichitta, also known as shunyata, is the open dimension of our being, the completely wide-open heart and mind. Without labels of ‘you’ and ‘me,’ ‘enemy’ and ‘friend,’ absolute bodhicitta is always here. Cultivating absolute bodhiccita means having a relationship with the world that is nonconceptual, that is unprejudiced, having a direct, unedited relationship with reality.”
— Pema Chodron in Practicing Peace in Times of War

“Separation is the arch-enemy of all life. Indeed the word ‘diabolical’ is from the Greek diaballein, to separate or divide. So separation is the work of the devil, and let us away with it.”
— Elaine MacInnes in Light Sitting in Light

Sometimes Near at Hand
“Serving peace is not easy. Often it is harder to seek dialogue with someone close at hand — a spouse, relative, co-worker, employer, or neighbor — than with a distant enemy seen only on television screens.”
— Jim Forest in The Ladder of the Beatitudes

Sometimes Us
“A few years before his death in 1999, the great Latin American advocate for the poor, Brazil's Archbishop Dom Helder Camara, was speaking at a crowded church in Berkeley, California. He was asked, ‘After facing death squads, would-be assassins, corporations oppressing the poor, violent government opposition, and even hostile forces within your own church, who is your most difficult opponent?’

“Without saying a word, Dom Helder pointed his hand into the air, then slowly arched it around, until it turned on himself, his index finger pointing to his heart. ‘I am my own worst enemy,’ he said, ‘my most difficult adversary. Here I have the greatest struggle for peace.’ "
— John Dear in Living Peace

“Perhaps the real enemy of peace is our stubborn insistence that our solution is the only solution to a particular conflict.”
— Diane Eshin Rizzetto in Waking Up To What You Do

“We are also the enemy strangers that others are struggling to welcome in their own right.”
— Caroline A. Westerhoff in Good Fences

“If you are happy with yourself, you are your own best friend. If you are unhappy with yourself, you are your own worst enemy.”
— Swami Chidvilasananda in Kindle My Heart

“Every outer evil inevitably attracts from our own depths parts of ourselves that resemble it. To engage evil is therefore a spiritual act, because it will require of us the rare courage to face our own most ancient and intractable evils within. It means abandoning one of the greatest and oldest lies: that the world is made up of good people and bad people. There is a double movement of psychic energy. We identify someone else as evil and unconsciously project our own evil onto that person. But the person or system that we call enemy also evokes the evil within, like a piano string set vibrating by a piercing scream. This two-way traffic or projection and introjection, if not halted, eventually becomes a form of mimesis, where each party begins to imitate the other.

“What is so very painful in the spiritual discipline required to face this inner darkness is that some of it may not be redeemable. I would like to become nonviolent from the heart, but there is a killer, a torturer, a coward, and a dictator in me that would like to keep me in psychic detention forever.”
— Walter Wink in Jesus and Nonviolence

“I have lived out my life in wars of every kind: battles without and within, close combat, face-to-face, the faces always my own, my lover-face, my enemy-face. Wars with the old weapons — sticks and stones, blunt ax, words, dull ripping knife, love and hate, and wars with newfangled weapons — machine gun, missile, words, landmines exploding, love and hate. I don't want to fulfill my parents' prophecy that life is war. I want peace with all my body and all my soul. Rest me in peace.”
— Yehuda Amichai in The Future of Peace by Scott A. Hunt

A Source of Breakthroughs
“What are our criteria for telling friend from foe? A friend might be the cause of emotional upheavals and negative habits, while a so-called foe might profit us immensely. It's often when someone hurts us that we have a breakthrough in understanding. The teachings often penetrate when things fall apart. ‘Friend’ and ‘enemy’ are common concepts; but it's hard to say who will help or hinder the process of awakening.”
— Pema Chodron in No Time to Lose

To Be Loved
“A truly Christian position calls for the abnegation of power, requires one to give all he has to the poor, to be meek, to love his enemy, to turn the other cheek. A measure of the instinctual force of the drive for power is given by the rarity with which such an ethic has in fact been practiced.”
— Allen Wheelis in The Way We Are

To Be Respected
“It is the recognition that there is a bonding given by God which is deeper than our feelings;
that our ‘enemy’ too has a place in the community, the family, the church or society;
the ‘enemy’ has a right to live and to flourish.

"Jesus has called the ‘enemy’ to a specific place and has given him or her specific gifts
which I should respect. Forgiveness is a long process that begins with this respect for the other; for the ‘enemy’."
— Jean Vanier in Befriending the Stranger

“Jesus told us to love our enemy. ‘Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ This teaching helps us know how to look at the person we consider to be the cause of our suffering. If we practice looking deeply into his situation and the causes of how he came to be the way he is now, and if we visualize ourselves as being born in his condition, we may see that we could have become exactly like him. When we do that, compassion arises in us naturally, and we see that the other person is to be helped and not punished. In that moment, our anger transforms itself into the energy of compassion. Suddenly, the one we have been calling our enemy becomes our brother or sister. This is the true teaching of Jesus.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Living Buddha, Living Christ

“Seven steps for just peacemaking:
(1) affirm common security interests with adversaries
(2) take independent initiatives
(3) talk with your enemy
(4) seek human rights and justice
(5) acknowledge vicious cycles
(6) end judgmental propaganda and make amends
(7) work with citizens' groups for the truth.
Every one of those steps is a way of creating dialogue aimed at healing conflict.”
— Edward LeRoy Long, Jr in Facing Terrorism by Edward LeRoy Long, Jr.

“All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?’ Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?’ "
— Pema Chodron in When Things Fall Apart

Unmasked before God
“Intercessory prayer anticipates the great reconciliation at the end of time when we stand together, with room for all, friend and enemy alike, unmasked before God in pure joy.”
— Suzanne Guthrie in Grace's Window

What We Haven’t Learned to Entrust to the Spirit
“Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, a gift — as is the life portrayed by Jesus in the Beatitudes. And so we wade into the water, almost as novices who never learned to swim. At first, the non-swimmer experiences the water as the enemy, as all peril. He flails, struggles mightily, feeling his body sinking, unable to battle the water successfully to stay afloat. But a loving instructor looks him in the eye and says: ‘Trust the water. Don't fight the water. Just rest. Be still. The water will hold you.’ And so, gradually the non-swimmer relaxes, and discovers to his surprises, a buoyancy. And then he is no longer a non-swimmer. Trust the Spirit. Trust the speaker of the Beatitudes. And then you will be blessed.”
— James C. Howell in The Beatitudes for Today