“If I can say anything to you, it is to invite you to look deeply and recognize the real enemy. The enemy is not a person. That enemy is a way of thinking that has brought a lot of suffering for everyone.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Anything negative — is not from a person.
Radical thinking? It shouldn’t be. If we view the enemy as simply a thought and not a person, we depersonalize it. It’s temporary, changeable. And we allow the person to grow beyond it, rather than be it.
We can then eliminate personal offense, and work constructively towards a solution.
Look at the Why
If something seems to be negative, we can encourage ourselves to look at “the why.” Why might someone think, or take action, in this way? This offers us an opportunity to develop empathy. Perhaps this person—let’s call her Jeanine—came from a difficult circumstance or has been hurt.
It’s not Jeanine who is “bad,” but the experiences which occurred in her life which impacted her. It’s those events that led to the thinking and action behind negativity.
So Jeanine’s identity is not “Prejudice”, “Anger” or “Hurt”:
The most beautiful thing about this is the following.
She can change.
Allow her to do so. Wouldn’t we all wish to be forgiven for a past action?
Every day we can begin again. We can embrace a new experience, a fresh purity, allowing us and others to live to our fullest.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk and Zen master. He is a well-known poet, writer and peace activist. A native of Vietnam, during the Vietnam War he helped found the “engaged Buddhism” movement, combining the contemplative practice of the monastery with active ministry to victims of the conflict. He founded the School of Youth Social Service, a Buddhist University, a publishing house, and a Vietnamese peace activist magazine.
During a trip to the United States, Thich Nhat Hanh persuaded Martin Luther King, Jr. to publicly oppose the Vietnam War; King subsequently nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize. Thich Nhat Hanh led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks.
Thich Nhat Hanh is the author of more than 85 books on mindfulness and peace. He founded the Plum Village community in France, a Buddhist community in exile. He continues to live and work at the Plum Village, and leads retreats worldwide on “the art of mindful living.”