When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (AKA turn an enemy into a friend. – Proverbs 16:7
In second grade our teachers would march us in single-file lines from one room to another, often passing other classes in the meantime. One day we passed a line of first graders. When I made eye-contact with a new girl I had never seen before she stuck her tongue out at me. The next time my class passed her class in the hall she did the same again, and so on for several weeks. I’d like to think I was more ladylike than her but at some point I began sticking my tongue out at her as well.
Then one day, out of the blue, instead she smiled at me. I was so shocked I didn’t know how to respond. I figured she was just messing with me and next time I saw her she would stick out her tongue at me again.
But the next time we passed in the hallway she smiled – again! I did not know what brought about this change but in my confusion I smiled back. From that point on we were friends, no conversation – no questions – just friends. And Courtney and I remained good friends for several years until her family moved out of state.
This was my first experience turning an enemy into a friend and although all it took was a smile on my part, I think it set a groundwork for how to turn enemies into friends for the rest of my life: don’t retaliate, forgive quickly, and smile.
Fast forward years – more like decades – when I started a new job as a financial reporter where I’d supposedly be anchoring clips on the stock market for a company hoping to one day be the next Reuters.
From the very first day I had a female co-worker who made it clear I was not welcome. Eventually other co-workers of ours told me that she was not happy about having another woman in the office and even less so that I had more experience than her. She wrongly assumed I came looking to compete and prepared herself for that fight. But instead of retaliating, I did this instead.
3 Steps to Turn an Enemy Into a Friend
I once heard it takes more character for a strong woman to remain gracious and feminine during trials than to fight back. I guess God just wanted to make sure I had plenty of opportunities to practice.
And practice I did. As soon as I arrived in the morning and until I left for the day, I was constantly told I was slow, stupid, and performing “way under expectations” – her favorite phrase. She would scream at me, swear at me, and even teamed up with another co-worker to try to make my daily life a living hell. Ultimately her goal was to get me to quit, or get fired.
She spread false lies about me that were almost impossible to fight. Once she told my boss I had a “negative attitude” and mistreated her. Making matters worse, he believed her, and told me I better change my attitude or I may not be the right fit for the company. I was speechless; she was wicked and crafty. And shamefully, I spent many lunch breaks crying in my car.
SIDE NOTE – I don’t tell you this story to put her down, but to show what kinds of miracles God can perform within our relationships if we let Him. Because Christ not only sustained me but was continuing to transform me more and more to His likeness.
October 31, 2009
Instead of praying for “things to get better” or even strength to keep going, I find myself praying to forgive my co-workers for whatever they may do or say that day. To even love them and have them see something different, appealing (hopefully Christ) in me. That just shows how much Christ IS in me because those prayers certainly don’t come from me. Left to my own natural thoughts you don’t want to know what I think about her…
December 21, 2009
Work is stressful, but today was okay. The more they throw at me, the more I take it and do well. Christ has really been working in my heart, keeping my mouth shut, giving me patience and helping me to love those I would have hated if I had let my own feelings rule.
January 3, 2010
If there is one thing I’ve learned lately, it is this: God loves, guides, gives, forgives and blesses – but He cannot make us happy. That is up to us, even during the times He seems distant or tests us.
They can lie about me, talk down to me, and I can still choose to be happy.
And while He equipped me with super-human patience, He also gave me wisdom. I was to turn the other cheek, yes, but I was also to start commanding respect (notice I didn’t say demanding, but commanding) by speaking the truth when it was called for, and taking back the position I was hired to do in the first place but she purposely kept from me – as head anchor. From that point on I also began to love my actual job more, making the situation easier as well.
January 30, 2010
Work has been getting extraordinarily better. It amazes me to see how the Holy Spirit kept me following the Word, choosing Christ, being a lady – and it really did work out. I understand things will be hard and then easy – and then good and bad, but I can’t wait to watch God’s plan unfold.
February 13, 2010
It ever it seems God is silent and leaving you without any help in a difficult time – He may just be saying “Keep going! Trust me.” What a difference a month can make. A few months ago I’d come home crying every day and very upset and yet now everyone is being ridiculously nice to me. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. But as Proverbs 16:7 says: When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
You might think this is the end of the story, but just when it seemed things at work were turning a corner, the company hired another girl around our age. At first, we got along great. But it was soon obvious her and my other colleague were – as the saying goes – two peas in a pod. And unfortunately they found pleasure in trying to torment me.
I think they disliked me more because I didn’t play their games and didn’t push back. And so I continued to pray. “Lord, help me forgive them. Help me love them the way you do.” I had to repeat this every morning on my way to work. The thing about the Bible is, it promises that whenever we pray according to God’s will, He hears us.
And He heard me.
He continued to fill me with kindness towards them. He gave me the strength not to retaliate in kind, but to always answer respectfully and help out where needed. I shed many more tears on my lunch break. But each day God still got me in my car and had me drive to that job, determined to make enemies out of friends.
Day in and day out I turned the other cheek. Day in and day out I responded with kind words and never let them see me get ruffled. At one point they realized I wouldn’t play their mouse in their cat and mouse game any longer and started leaving me alone. Ignoring me, actually, but it was better than the alternative.
Then one day they started pulling me into their conversation, and asking me to grab lunch. And just like that – we became friends.
Even more surprisingly, my initial co-worker who hated me from the start began to confide in me and seek advice. When I finally moved to Washington, D.C. for another job she even gave me a farewell gift and a hug. It’s probably a good thing she couldn’t see the surprised look on my face. When a man’s ways please the Lord, He can make even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)
Just like with Courtney, I learned we must not retaliate when others hurt us. We must forgive quickly. And that with God – and a smile – we can turn an enemy into a friend.