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Why Should I Love My Enemies?

How a Difficult Co-Worker Taught Me the Meaning of Mercy

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— 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.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

perla avila - Apr 24, 2009

Incredible thing happen when we prayfor others it's like a rainbow right after a dark storm.

Mary - Dec 18, 2008

This witnessing of mercy comes to me as a familiar one these days. Yes, like you Ann...I have also a Della in a community where we are supposed to work for the Lord. Since, I embraced the Mercy journey...these unlovables and uninspiring persons just make sense to my journey. I am praying hard as I can in Jesus Mercy for " Della " that her cutting-edge and sharp tongues, unkind attitudes or her non-" Christ-like " attitudes are occassions for me to magnify Jesus Mercy. It really works even making a " distant healing prayer" for her change of attitude. Yes, it is all because the Lord of Mercy is making me truly merciful instead of fighting back.

Ida - Oct 10, 2008

As I am working in the afternoon and I am unable to pray the Rosary of Mercy at 3 p.m. I am praying it every morning, the first I do is this.

Mary S. - Oct 8, 2008

I prayed the Chaplet and Rosary 3timesor many times as I can a day,this are my bread and butter in my life,because I am always alone in my house and it ease myself if I have encounter problems.God Bless

Numb soul - Oct 2, 2008

I never thought I could make it through my harden heart and forgive my brother from incest after 40 some years, but I did through faith two years ago after a breakdown, HE took the stand alone and admitted to our large family and the extention of others, so much he would loose,after dening for so long. I found my self then climing out of the "pit" and again clinging onto faith, "Trusting Jesus and Mary" when my parents and remaining family denied still of the news from what they heard of the truth. It has been Three years now, I have had to walk away-"FORGIVE THEM GOD AS THEY DO NOT KNOW"- I have not heard from anyone, I think the folks are still alive. My ADOPTED teenage daughter and my husband has fought along side with me to understand, she now knows the true meaning of"LOVE", "Family" and forgiveness, one leason that hopefully she can learn that she was not "abandoned" from adoption at birth- it takes LOVE to let go---All I ever wanted as a child after expericing such betrayel and fear was peace, no pain for the others. I would carry the cross of bearden, I knew God saw It all,He knows everything he would take care of things some day! How a child thinks.- I told my parents that are in their 80's, "love heals"- they still did not hear, from dening. But I still believe. "Forgiving is hard,it can rob the years of ones soul and spirit, and I almost lost my fight, until I relized I could not have my daughter think that she was left twice, I needed to show her that life yes is hard, we need to lean on Jesus, have faith,trust, LOVE and live, that is our gift. No silence here- I have no fear-Jesus walks with me and gives strength to speak.. Love to all and give peace to yourself and others!!!

Don - Nov 25, 2007

Thank you Ann, that was beautiful.
Sometimes when a person gets to me, I picture them in my mind and take them by the hand to the foot of The Cross with the prayer here's another one for You Jesus. I can't carry this one anymore.
Peace to you!

Ann D'Arcy - Jan 25, 2007

Thank you for your comments on my piece. I feel so much a part of the body of Christ when I hear from others.
I am becoming immersed more and more in the Divine Mercy.

Anna Maria - Dec 27, 2006

A beutiful witness to the power of prayer and mercy..that we need to be reminded of often ..Lord , help me too.. to be gentle, merciful ..in spite of my fear and confusion, that being too easy or ignoring sitautions would only make things worse ..

- Nov 26, 2006

please pray the chaplet as i do each day for..
Kosoul Chanthakoummane