Book Review

Book Review: Love Your Enemies

love your enemies vidya sury

Yes, I know. Two book reviews back to back. The joy of reading is a lovely thing. I read “Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier” by Sharon Salzberg and Robert A.F. Thurman over a year ago and while looking for something a couple of days ago, came across it and ended up reading it again. It is a wonderful book and I want to share it with you!

love your enemies vidya sury

 Love Your Enemies:

How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier

by Sharon Salzberg and Robert A.F. Thurman
Langauge: English
Pages: 221
ISBN13: 0781401928148
Publisher: Hay House

When situations and people upset us, anger is a natural emotional response because we feel victimized, hurt and defensive. The whole world looks like our enemy, especially when our expectations are not met. As the anger builds up, we become our own enemies.

Could we transcend this anger and pain? Yes, according to “Love your enemies: How to break the anger habit and be a whole lot happier” by Sharon Salzberg and Robert A F Thurman.

Inspired by HH The Dalai Lama, “Love your enemies” is a practical and simple guide that teaches us to identify these enemies, set ourselves free from the “Us vs. Them” thinking and bring about a transformation in our relationships by developing compassion towards self and others. It talks about the concept of “lovingkindness”.

Drawing heavily on the Buddhist way of thinking, and written in conversational style, it explains the four kinds of enemies we meet as we go through life. Each type of enemy is presented in sequence, taking us from the outer enemies to the enemy within, based on the premise that the process of finding freedom and overcoming our anger, fear and self-preoccupation must ideally follow this sequence.

This transformational book offers tools to free ourselves from these four types of enemies in our lives, developed from the ancient Tibetan mind-transformation teachings. The enemies are categorized into:

  • the outer enemy or outer influences that harm us,
  • the inner enemy or our own destructive emotions,
  • the secret enemy or self-obsession, and
  • the super-secret enemy or self-hate that keeps us from being happy.

Life, however, is less than ideal and so – after I read the book, I realized that one can start at any of the stages described in the book.

For instance, if you find it hard to figure out where to start and have a sense of hopelessness, it is a good idea to jump into the “Appendix” of the book and practice the “lovingkindness meditation” to help you develop self-compassion before you even begin to read the book.

If you would like to start by experiencing inner freedom, Chapter 4 is a great start.

If you are in a place where you are unable to let go of your anger, Chapter 2 will help identify and overcome the inner enemy.

No matter what type of enemy you face, inner or outer, the process of overcoming is the same: identification, understanding, developing tolerance and compassion and then, simply rooting it out to free ourselves. The outcome? True happiness and living harmoniously with others.

The first thought I had was this – it is not easy to achieve freedom from our enemies. It takes a lot of mental focus, courage and constant effort to let go of our habits, the way we perceive those we interact with, and our standard responses.

On one hand, when we have to deal with our enemies, we must stay in control, even if we feel vengeful and want to lash out at them.

On the other hand, we must ensure that we actively engage with the world and rather than show our anger or fear destructively, we take constructive action that stems from kindness, both towards ourselves and others.

When we refuse to return anger with anger and reject the belief that revenge is the only option, we enter a world of limitless and enlightened choice.

Eventually, the distinction between “Us” and “Them” diminishes. Since there is no difference between self and others, there is no enemy. When we emerge victorious over our enemies, we realize that ultimately, we are all interdependent and no one lives in isolation.

“Love your enemies” seeks to teach the reader to successfully change her relationship with her enemies and live a life guided by wisdom, tolerance, compassion and love. The concepts are easy to experiment with.

The alternating commentary by the authors and their easy writing style flows smoothly, complementing each other through their stories and teachings. Sharon share stories and examples from her own experience and that of her students’, while Bob’s teachings are drawn from his personal experiences and the Buddhist canon.

We are introduced to the concept of our enemies being our best teachers, based on the premise that unless there were people trying to harm us how could we learn patience, tolerance and forgiveness? Why waste energy on hating those who wrong us? Why not practice tolerance instead?

A nice analogy is that of martial arts, where we must transcend anger to gain the power to defeat our opponents. Anger throws you off balance and depletes your energy, making you weak. Fear does the same thing.

“Love your enemies” explains why anger is the ultimate inner enemy and offers gentle strategies anyone can adopt, practice and make into a habit. It describes how mindfulness can heal our relationship with time. We learn to let go of our tendency to dwell in the past and channel our attention and energy to the present, connecting with what is in this moment.

Naturally, all this does not happen overnight. It is a gradual step by step process and requires us to embrace the concepts of “give and take”, kindness and altruism. By practicing self-compassion, we learn that when we make mistakes, we have a choice how we treat ourselves afterward.

Finally – it is one thing to read about overcoming our enemies, but how to work on it? What practices can help us transform our relationship with our inner and outer enemies and deliver us from anger and fear? The authors offer a series of meditations, tools and exercises in the last fifty pages of the book.

About the authors

Sharon Salzberg, a teacher of meditation for more than 30 years, co-founded the Insight Meditation Society, the Forest Refuge, and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. Sharon’s work is based on the practices of mindfulness and metta, (lovingkindness), the aim of which is to cultivate love and compassion both for ourselves and for others. Her books include Lovingkindness, Faith, The Force of Kindness, and the New York Times bestseller Real Happiness.

Tenzin Robert Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, holding the  first endowed chair of Buddhist Studies in the United States. He is the author of the bestseller Inner Revolution, as well as Anger, In nite Life, and other popular books. He is also a translator of Tibetan texts. He serves as cofounder and president of Tibet House US, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the endangered culture of Tibet

“Love your enemies” helps us find peace within ourselves and with the world – I’d say that’s a worthy quest! What do you think?

Buy the book on Amazon (affiliate link)

I am grateful to Netgalley for an advance review copy of this wonderful book.

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Sandra Pawula
    May 18, 2015 at 7:27 am

    I agree completely! I love reading about all the different aspects of this book and especially the idea of the 4 different types of enemies.

    I think this is so true: “The first thought I had was this – it is not easy to achieve freedom from our enemies. It takes a lot of mental focus, courage and constant effort to let go of our habits, the way we perceive those we interact with, and our standard responses.”

    But I think it’s a worthy aspiration and can come to pass when we gradually work on transforming our view – the way we see the world – and our heart – the way we respond to the world. Thank you, Vidya!
    Sandra Pawula recently posted…How to Let Go of Attachments and Find More EaseMy Profile

  • Reply
    Susan Scott
    May 18, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Lovely post Vidya thank you. One of life’s challenges is to overcome all those obstacles of anger, though it can be a starting point or a focus point in identifying it. The tools sound extremely useful, though I can’t help wondering if they help in truly discovering and uncovering where the anger comes from – i.e. its source? I know the authors (I’ve read their books, not this one) and the wisdom based on Tibetan or Buddhist teachings is always sound and beneficial!
    Susan Scott recently posted…Lilith, First Wife of AdamMy Profile

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      May 24, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      True – and you are right Susan! Often, we need the outlet and the need to go through the anger process, even as we know that it is best to forgive and love. 🙂 I’ve struggled with this …but am slowly getting to the goal. It is tough.

  • Reply
    Darla M Sands
    May 19, 2015 at 12:01 am

    This seems like a fantastic read. Thank you for sharing.
    Darla M Sands recently posted…Tuesday Tidings for May 12, 2015My Profile

  • Reply
    marie kléber
    May 19, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    This looks like a great & must read Vidya. It’s definitely not easy to love our ennemies. But living with anger all our life is not good at all. We ought to do something about it. I’ll make sure to get this book and practice.
    Thank you and have a blessed day.
    marie kléber recently posted…World Mums Blog – Interview!My Profile

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      May 24, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      Thank you dear Marie. I know. I found the book a little radical when I first read it. The second time around, I found it more acceptable! 🙂 Tough, but worth it!

  • Reply
    Birgit
    May 26, 2015 at 6:03 am

    This sounds like something I need right now. This book touches on the different anger and how to deal with this. My boss was a bit of a bully to me last week as my hubby stated and my friends. This was based on a boo boo I made because I was being honest and I said too much which then he had to deal with. We are taken out to dinner by associates who want our business. Our boss cut ties with one because of their negative way they talk about Credit Counselling on their web site and that for every 10 people we send to them, we only got 3 back. This Company asked myself and another counsellor out for dinner right after knowing they were done. Instead of sensibly sending it to my boss, I sent an e-mail back, with the backing of the fellow counsellor, thanking them for how nice they have been but can’t anymore and gave the 2 reasons and can speak to our boss. My brother said I threw my boss under the bus but that was not my intention. I was just wanting to be nice and I was too honest. Anyhoo, my boss was not happy mentioned I am too blunt and some other things. I guess I am most angry with myself. This is a book I would like to get a hold of. Sorry for the whine
    Birgit recently posted…Birthday Crazy TimeMy Profile

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      May 26, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Birgit, first, hugs. I know how you feel – I’ve done this, too. I think the anger towards self stems from the fact that your intentions were good, and you’re misunderstood – so you wish you hadn’t done what you did. 🙂 Be nice to yourself – reactions to any situation are quite normal since people see it from their own point of view. I think you’ll enjoy this book, too!
      Vidya Sury recently posted…Hope for Thinning Hair With #NioxinNowInIndiaMy Profile

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