Love Your Enemies | #MyFridayStory №294

Frans Nel
4 min readJul 14, 2023
Image | Nikki Belt

You can tip-toe around what it will take to make the world a better place, but it eventually comes down to one basic idea. To love everyone, including yourself and God… but there’s a kicker:

You must also love your enemies.

The minute we have “them and us” groups, we open room for discrimination and biases towards the other. A reason to hate. And it is based on nothing more or nothing less than a sense of superiority or privilege that is somehow deserved by only one group. Something available only to us. When we exclude others, we allow a selfish and hardened heart to settle in. Being stingy and hoarding for our self-interest is fertile ground for hatred.

I had been in hospital for around two weeks when, yet another new patient was wheeled into the space by the window, next to my bed. A transfer from the Joburg General Hospital to the Edenvale orthopaedic division. As he arrived, I greeted him and welcomed him to our little corner of the open-plan ward. He smiled a big toothy grin and greeted me back, speaking in Zulu. He had a massive row of stitches that crossed the top of his head and down across his forehead and ended down next to his right eye. He had many broken bones in his arms and legs. I learned from a nurse that he was a homeless man that was run over by a car. He couldn’t stand or walk but shuffled backwards in a wheelchair.

Earlier that day, my kids had brought me a box of biscuits that stood on my hospital trolley table. He looked across at me with anticipation and asked, “Biscuit?” I grabbed the box and stretched over to hand it to him, saying, “Sure, here you go”. He never passed the box back. When the evening tea arrived, I was excited to enjoy some biscuits and tea for a change. When I asked him for the biscuits, he pulled out the empty box and handed it to me! I was shocked. He had eaten the entire box without offering me some.

Instantly, he became my enemy.

Later that evening, he started shouting at the nurses and demanded to see a doctor. He was speaking in Zulu, but I could make out the gist of his rants. He was not interested in what any of the nurses had to say. He screamed louder and louder for a doctor to come see him immediately. According to the medical staff, he had suffered a traumatic brain injury making these rants acceptable. There was a female doctor within earshot and when she turned to address him, he shouted at her saying that she is not a doctor.

I couldn’t take any more of his disrespect and shouting. I angrily pulled back the curtain separating us and threatened him with violence if he didn’t keep quiet immediately. I said there are many patients here that are trying to get better, and his ranting and raving are not helping. He swore at me and told me to shut up. The battle lines were drawn. I asked the nurses to keep the curtain between us drawn so that I didn’t have to see him or deal with him anymore. Everyone had heard the heated argument between us and that there was no love lost between us.

In the coming days, he continued to irritate me, getting the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end. We had other altercations when he harassed friends and family that visited me. But one day, I noticed that many other patients often came and visited him. They would all stay for a while, and it was obvious to me that he was well-liked. His guests would always be in fits of laughter and would leave his bedside in a cheerful mood. Often, they would share a meal, chatting and laughing, enjoying each other’s company.

I realised I had judged him. Not only had I judged him, but I had judged him persona non grata. How can I, with my limited point of view of his life and his story, dare to make a call on his worthiness as a person? I realised that if I can’t accept him as a brother, as an equal, I’m worse off as a human being. If I can’t love him as I love myself and those that love me, I’m holding back from being a full person.

I once mentioned challenging myself when I’m in doubt of how to love, to picture Ace Magashule and consider loving him. Well, this was more real and more immediate. By the time I left the hospital a week and a half later, Nkululeko and I had become friendlier. We shared our treats and I laughed at his flamboyant mannerisms. I looked beyond to see more than a homeless beggar, to try to see me in him.

I haven’t mastered the art of loving my enemies, far from it. At least, reach out a hand of compassion. By being ready to be generous with your love — especially toward enemies — creates the space for reconciliation and friendship to replace hatred.

Have an awesome weekend and please remember to be generous! 😄

As always, thanks for reading 🙏

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