If you aren’t inviting your enemies for tea, you are inviting your own misery instead.
Growing up, I had very clear boundaries drawn around me. I surrounded myself with like-minded people, and had a straight path prepared for me, to guide me through life. It was simple. It was clean. It was reliable. It was secure.
What I didn’t see then was just how weak this made me as a person. It took me many years to recognize that those who were different from me were not my enemies. I fought against any ideas that were divergent from those I was accustomed to, and convinced myself that I knew better than them. I pitied them.
My own asceticism resulted in overwhelming, constant guilt and self-doubt. I couldn’t escape it no matter how hard I tried to do things right. I still struggle with this to this day, if I’m honest.
Stephen West (Philosophize This podcast) describes this pathology as “…the type of thinking that can lead otherwise perfectly reasonable people into a hatred for themselves for feeling the wrong way, or a hatred of their neighbor for believing the wrong thing.”
This idea is hundreds of years old, but still feels so relevant in today’s society, now more than ever. We are afraid to be wrong; we must be right, and anyone or anything that says otherwise is a threat.
But what if it wasn’t?
Eventually, I gave up trying what wasn’t working and did something radical. I invited my enemies in.
Turns out I didn’t have as many enemies as I thought, and what I was really doing was keeping myself from learning anything new. I was afraid I would lose myself, but instead, who I am has been strengthened by it.
Many “enemies” have since become allies, mentors, teachers, and friends.
I continue to challenge what I know by surrounding myself with people like me AND people not like me. I’ve come to love the diversity of thought and what I can learn from it — I absolutely live for it, and am now completely bored without it.
I would challenge anyone who feels threatened by new ideas, people who are different, and things you “don’t understand” to ask yourself why. Why don’t you understand? Why shouldn’t you?
Certainly, the fact that I have an opinion or a certain set of knowledge does not negate the validity of someone else’s, nor does it necessitate a need to prove that I am right.
It is okay for conflicting ideas to co-exist and not bring an end to your world.
I would be willing to bet that the moment you produce respect for others who challenge you instead of conflict, it will reveal the cracks in your own story and will actually make you stronger.
Go out there, be bold, and learn something from someone unexpected today. It will change your life.