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An Ugly Reflection

What your enemies reveal about you

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Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash
Mirrors are a paradox. They show you an exact opposite of yourself, while at the same time presenting something that is your perfect similitude. You in every way, but the inverse of you.

In a similar way, I’m coming to see enemies as mirrors. The people I choose as my enemies—and I do believe that I’m the one choosing them—reveal my own contours and features just like a reflection does. I think of them as opposite to me, but they reflect back so much about who I am and what I value.

Thinking of our enemies as our opposites, we might take pride in the comparison. If they’re godless, that makes us God-loving. If they’re cruel, that makes us kind. If they’re foolish, that makes us wise. But does this description match the reflection?

If our enemies are judgmental, are we then fair-minded? If they’re quick to offense, are we magnanimous? Hardly. And what’s worse, we might reflect opposition to whatever is good in them. If I set myself against people who love their families, who help their neighbors, and who trust their friends, what does that say about me?

The prickly truth is that you can know a person almost intimately if you discover their enemies. Consider just how reliable that measure is. “Who are your enemies?” would be the ultimate get-to-know-you question for parties and dating apps if it weren’t so miserable to ask.

Last, the enemies we choose don’t make us good any more than a mirror makes us beautiful. It takes more for me to become a good person than just deciding whom I oppose. If our enmity holds our attention, like Narcissus staring at his reflection, then we’re trapped by our own self-regard. It’s sad that we all know someone imprisoned in enmity.

Has anyone ever found real happiness in a mirror? I might have done a few times after a good haircut (back when I had much hair). But there’s nothing there in the mirror that’s real enough to obsess over. If I look away from enemies/myself, I discover whole world of joyful people that I might be lucky enough to call friends.

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