MOMM's flagship presentation: This film brings the heart of St. Faustina's famous Diary to life in a moving and informative way. Tell All Souls About My Mercy: Includes Chaplet of... Read more
Why Should I Love My Enemies?
How a Difficult Co-Worker Taught Me the Meaning of Mercy
— Love is a mystery that transforms everything it touches into things beautiful and pleasing to God (Diary of St. Faustina, 890).
By Ann D'Arcy
Love your enemies. Jesus demands that from us: "But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you"(Mt 5:44).
Have you ever worked with someone who grated on your last nerve? Every day becomes purgatory.
Several years ago, I volunteered to help man the phone banks for a fundraiser in my community. We were calling people, asking them if they would be willing to go door-to-door in their neighborhoods, seeking donations to fund medical research. We worked from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., hours when it's easiest to find someone at home. Unfortunately, it's also the dinner hour and time when families relax together. People do not appreciate being interrupted by a telemarketer, even for a worthy cause.
I've heard it said that it isn't the mountain you must climb, but the pebble in your shoe that makes the journey difficult. Well, the mountain I had to climb was the verbal abuse I received at times when my call was unwelcome. The pebble in my shoe was the woman assigned to the seat next to mine. I'll call her Della. She spent much of her time doling out criticisms on everything I did, from the color ink in my pen, to the order in which I called the numbers. She chewed and snapped gum.
Not everyone was a volunteer. Della was one of the employees. I didn't want to complain to the supervisor. I figured Della needed the job. However, I was having very unkind thoughts. I tried ignoring her, smiling and shrugging my shoulders, or answering her curtly. Nothing discouraged her. I was becoming more and more exasperated. Even though the people I was phoning often were less than kind, I was actually grateful when someone picked up the phone. I had an excuse to ignore Della.
By the time the evening was over, I was uptight and grumpy. At home, I made my family miserable with my complaining. Soon, everything she did fed my irritation. One day, Della mentioned she was "coming down with something." I actually caught myself hoping it was something that would keep her in bed for a week or two. That's when I realized my pettiness. I was ashamed of myself.
I asked God's forgiveness. I realized God not only forgives, He has mercy on me. I thought I had often forgiven others. But for some reason, this time I knew He was asking me to do more than forgive. He was asking me to have mercy, to show kindness in excess of what's demanded in fairness. I was to pray for Della. "Really! And just how should I do this, Lord?"
Have you seen the commercial — one of the best, I think — that says "Just do it!"? Well, that's the message I got back, loud and clear!
I began praying for Della. I prayed her day would go well. I prayed that the Lord would help her to prosper. I prayed she would find contentment and happiness. Pretty soon, I felt invested in helping her do just that. I began walking to the break room with her and inviting her to join me at my table. When I noticed she never had snacks to enjoy, I began bringing enough to share. As we began to visit during these breaks, I learned she didn't have any family nearby and didn't own a car. She was renting in a run-down section of the inner-city. Often she heard gunshots in the night and always feared for her safety. It broke my heart to hear of her struggles.
Was it my imagination, or was she spending more time making calls and less time criticizing me? Or was it easier to handle critique from a friend? I don't know. I do know I began looking forward to seeing her at her desk each evening. I can't tell you how many times since then I have been called to pray for people who are causing me angst. With some situations it's as though I'm trying to lift a four-foot cube of concrete. There it is lying at my feet and I rebel. "I can't do this, Lord. It's too much to ask." But in Mark 8:34, Jesus says, "...Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."
I always thought a cross was something thrust on you, like chronic pain or some other unavoidable misfortune. But it does say "take up His cross." Hmmm. Doesn't that indicate my willing involvement? And so I bend to the task. The moment I stoop to pick up the burden — not only to forgive, but to pray for those who abuse me — it seems that God steps in and carries the load. But then, we read in Matthew 11:30: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." The hardest part is making the decision to "Just do it." Once I make that choice, it becomes easy and miracles happen. "Pray for those who abuse you" is something that works. It really works!
As for that four-foot cube of concrete? I've come to believe that when I choose to harbor anger towards another, Satan eagerly helps me lift that load. When I choose to show mercy, I relieve myself of the burden. Letting it go brings me peace and joy — and a beauty that, indeed, must be pleasing to God.
Ann D'Arcy is a freelance writer who lives in Northville, Mich.