(Cover art courtesy of ICON Media Group)
Taken from Disruptive Compassion by Hal Donaldson. Copyright © 2019 by Hal Donaldson. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
We all have personal enemies that threaten to imprison us. They include fear, loneliness, resentment, regret, abuse, addiction, inferiority, jealousy, ambition, poverty, racism, even busyness, distraction, and more. They endanger our happiness and often shift our focus from the world’s needs to our own. When we’re preoccupied with our problems, it’s more difficult to practice disruptive compassion. Generosity, for example, is a challenge when you can’t pay your bills. Kindness is tough when you’ve been slandered. Stopping to help a stranger is difficult when you’re battling fear. Finding the space to recharge when your schedule is overrun is nearly impossible. So how can you conquer your personal enemies so they don’t interfere with your mission?
Corrie ten Boom, who endured injustice in a Nazi prison concentration camp, said, “The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” Revolutionaries do the same. They know their foes, which typically fall into one of three categories: personal, social, and spiritual.
The enemies of my childhood arrived at my door like three thugs attempting to kidnap my soul. They came in the form of anger, poverty, and inferiority. Every month a social worker came to our home to ensure we were still deserving of government assistance. I despised those interrogations. Why should a child have to justify a new toy given by his grandmother?
I also despised walking into school with holes in both my shoes and jeans (before holes were cool). Every lunch period reminded me I was different. I was eating mayonnaise sandwiches and off-brand peanut butter crackers. Meanwhile, my friends ate tuna fish, apples, and Hostess cupcakes. Needless to say, they’d never trade for anything I had to offer. We couldn‘t always afford a barber, so I grew my hair long and trimmed it myself. I detested standing in line at the grocery store with food stamps and confessing to my Little League coach I couldn’t afford a new baseball glove.
Here was my problem: I was letting other people define me. Just because I was poor didn’t mean I was stupid. And just because I didn’t have hundred-dollar basketball shoes didn’t mean I couldn’t dunk like Michael Jordan (Well, I guess I couldn’t—but occasionally I knocked down threes like Steph Curry).
Your enemies want to define you. They want to limit your potential for good by telling you what you’re not. Fortunately, your enemies’ opinions don’t matter unless you believe them. Your job title doesn’t define you. What car you drive, what neighborhood you live in, or what brand of clothes you wear doesn’t define you either. You’re defined by your character, kindness, generosity, and commitment. Your past… doesn’t define you. It’s simply the trail you’ve traveled thus far to get where you want to go.
The more you’re able to overcome personal enemies, the more effective you will be at combating social enemies like poverty, loneliness, disease, pollution, racism, war, and more. It’s easy to look at the state of the world and assume we’re losing… But there is reason for optimism… there is a lot of love in this world that can flow through you to defeat any enemy and solve every problem. Seriously, if you wake up most days with hope and optimism, there’s no limit to the good you can accomplish. But without hope there can be no victory over the status quo. The Bible says, “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet” (Eph. 6:13 MSG).