I’ve always been the type of guy who thought that he didn’t have enemies in life. I was the nice guy, I did nice things, I was kind to everyone, cheerful, polite, a bit of a loner, self-reliant, solitary, with a few good friends and determined to do good. Why would anyone be an enemy to me?

The argument from determinism.

I’ve turned the other cheek, tried to see the best in people and whilst I haven’t always agreed or supported their actions, I’ve taken the view that if I had lived completely in their shoes and experienced what they had experienced then I would probably behave as they behave and do the same kinds of mean spirited, nasty and downright evil things that they do.

I’ve always taken the view that deep down inside they are actually just good people who do what they do because they don’t know any different.

Imagine how surprised I was to find out at the ripe old age of 46, that I had enemies, (not just one, but several) a spiritual man like me that has always wanted to do the right thing only to discover that he had foes who would have been happy to dance upon his grave, if given the chance.

Adversaries vs Enemies.

Adversaries just want to compete with you, they just want one up or at worst to humiliate you in one way or another. These are the people that have put their own interests above yours and see you as a source of competition, or a threat to be eliminated or out-competed. Outside of the arena (most usually a workplace), they have no special interest in you.

Enemies are fundamentally different, they want you dead or as close to it as possible. There is a big difference between an adversary and an enemy.

If they can’t kill your body they will try their best to kill your spirit. Whether death is physical or mental, the end result is the same, you are removed from the battlefield, or cast into exile (getting fired, ostracised or sent to prison etc).

That’s what they want, a chance to exercise their power and do you down.

To be fair I’ve had enemies before, although I didn’t realise it. My naivety led me to believe that they were just adversaries. They didn’t really wish me harm, even though they didn’t like me or care about me, it wasn’t anything personal, they were just competing with me. I had decided to think the best of them because it was inconceivable that anyone would be my enemy.

One such enemy destroyed my life when I was 36 and as previously mentioned, another one came along when I was 46 to destroy it again. It took me a long time to recover from the events of my 36th year, and thanks to philosophy a relatively quick time to recover from the events of my 46th year.

My point is, I know how you feel If you’ve ever had an enemy or an adversary, I understand what it’s like which is why I am able to offer the following advice straight from the lips (or rather the pen) of the greatest Emperor who ever lived, Marcus Aurelius, who like most men in his position was beset with enemies and adversaries from within and without.

No 1. You should live for Virtue.

“The best revenge is not to be like your enemy…”

No 2. This is because you are what you think.

‘The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.’

No 3. A good life is one that is in accordance with nature.

‘Remind yourself that your task is to be a good human being; remind yourself what nature demands of people. Then do it, without hesitation, and speak the truth as you see it. But with kindness. With humility. Without hypocrisy.’

No 4. To live as nature intended is to be a good man.

‘…But nothing that is according to nature can be evil.”

No 5. Understand that philosophy is best demonstrated by actions not ideas.

‘Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

No 6. To do so is to free your mind from suffering.

‘The mind in itself has no needs, except for those it creates itself. Is undisturbed, except for its own disturbances. Knows no obstructions, except those from within.”

No 7. Because there are only events and our reactions to them. We do not control the former but have full control over the latter.

“Death and life, honour and dishonour, pain and pleasure — all these things equally happen to good men and bad, being things which make us neither better nor worse. Therefore they are neither good nor evil.”

No 8. Thus it is obvious that whatever life throws at you, you are more than adequately equipped to deal with it.

“Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by nature to bear.”

No 9. You are thus ready to embrace the vagaries of fate for the simple reason that…

“The controlling Intelligence understands its own nature, and what it does, and whereon it works.”

No 10. Making you a prince among men.

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one ever was truly harmed. Harmed is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance.”

A statue of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

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