Step 9: Your Enemy

Now for the difficult person on your list. You know, the one that you think of as toxic waste in human clothing? In the past, using Old Testament lingo, I thought of that person as my enemy. When I’ve allowed that into my heart, it was like the proverbial taking poison in hopes of killing the other guy. I just got progressively more sick and my heart was hardened. I became brittle. I never want to do that again. With God’s perspective, I can usually see people as fellow strugglers and I no longer hate anyone.

The question of how to approach the man we hated will arise. It may be he has done us more harm than we have done him and, though we may have acquired a better attitude toward him, we are still not too keen about admitting our faults. Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take the bit in our teeth. It is harder to go to an enemy than to a friend, but we find it much more beneficial to us. We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit, confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our regret. ~ AA page 77

The other person may behave badly- erupting with poisonous reactions. I let that happen up to a point. Sometimes the difficult person uses it as an opportunity to attack me, having no intention of hearing my apology. In that case, I’ve tried reflecting (ex: You’re saying I should have known better…) for a while. I will even agree with them if their accusations are true, whether I want to hear it or not. (ex: You’re right, I did gossip about you.)

But if they start escalating and continue to be verbally abusive then I state as calmly as I can something like, I’m leaving now because we are not able to have a reasonable discussion about this. This is not the time to make accusations or use a sentence that begins with you. I try to use only I or we sentences. Of course, I’m always willing to try again if they contact me at a later date and they treat me civilly.

In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens. Sometimes the man we are calling upon admits his own fault, so feuds of years’ standing melt away in an hour. Rarely do we fail to make satisfactory progress. Our former enemies sometimes praise what we are doing and wish us well. Occasionally, they will offer assistance. It should not matter, however, if someone does throw us out of his office. We have made our demonstration, done our part. It’s water over the dam. ~ AA page 78

He might refuse to meet with me altogether. In that case, I’ve done what I could. If I feel like I need to try again, I might write a letter or an email later and give him an opportunity to read my words and have a chance to think about it. It might just be that hearing my voice is upsetting to him! I have that effect on some people.