Why Enemies Are More Important Than Friends 1

Your Friends Like You, But Your Enemies Define You

By Chris Simmons

An individual’s closest friends tell you WHO they are. In contrast, their enemies reveal WHAT they are. It has been my experience that an enemy’s impact on one’s personality is much more personal, memorable, and long-term. Enemies define you:  they tell the world who you are NOT. As such, you can learn valuable insights into the core values and beliefs of others by identifying and understanding not only their friends, but their foes as well.

Friends come and go throughout the seasons of our life. In contrast, opponents are often “frozen in time,” remaining enemies forever. They may be out of one’s life, but the mere thought of them prompts a visceral response. This occurs, in part, because negative emotions can often be stronger than positive ones in the same way insults are often easier to remember than compliments. Additionally, since our enemies define facets of our identity, the impact lasts significantly longer than many friendships.

As you may recall from the June 8th post (“The Secret to Never Getting Blindsided, https://humanchessdotorg.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/the-secret-to-never-getting-blindsided/ ) one’s identity and self-image is rooted in our emotions, vice the more dispassionate foundation of logic and reason. As a result, we often make our own enemies.

For example, I’m reminded of a National Guard officer with whom I worked years ago. Lacking any shred of integrity, he was an embarrassment to the uniform. In fact, I can honestly say the closest this Major had ever come to “ethics” was a dictionary. His “protector” was a more senior officer with whom he shared close business, political, and personal ties.

This officer generated considerable victories in service to his “protector,” as well as his own craven desires. It’s unclear, however, whether the Major and his patron saint – a Lieutenant Colonel – ever wondered why all their victories were short-term and hard-fought. The reason, of course, was that their “enemies” list was long, distinguished and its members hungry for payback. These two officers invested so much effort in blindly satisfying their immediate self-interest that they destroyed their reputation, denied themselves endless personal and professional opportunities, and undermined unit cohesiveness.

The “Free Choice” paradigm found that after an individual has made a choice, he/she builds it up to reassure themselves of the wisdom of their selection. Concurrently, we begin denigrating that object/person/etc that we did not choose. In sum, we create a feedback loop validating that we made the right choice. With regard to our personal interactions, this sustains the warmth and intensity of our friendships while fueling and deepening the animosity of those selected as enemies.

Furthermore, research has found that, as humans, we are twice as upset about a loss as we are happy about a gain. Thus, if an enemy is in a position to hurt us, we are even more focused and emotionally invested in reacting to the perceived threat. This negative dynamic then adds yet another layer to an adversarial relationship.

As a result, the study of one’s enemies offers an extraordinary opportunity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person’s true identity, especially the rationale for the “who I am NOT” components.


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