Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer – Sun Tzu
The attribution for that that little phrase is in some dispute. It is attributed by some to Sun Tzu in his book The Art of War and by some due to a bad translation of the letters of Machiavelli. Some even attribute it to the movie The Godfather. Wherever it’s from, I’d like to focus on a slightly different look at the enemy – the enemy within.
“It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.” (Sally Kempton)
In this little saying it is impossible not to keep the enemy close because the enemy is already in our heads, or at least has outposts there. What does that mean? Let’s assume for the moment that the enemies that you are trying to fight are prejudices or bigotry or any other pre-conceived notions about things that might lead you in a direction that you really don’t want to go.
How did the enemy, which rears its ugly head from time to time in your thoughts, get an outpost in your head? For most of us the answer lies in our childhood, in our homes and how we were raised. For those of us who are old enough to have lived through the racial ugliness of the mid-twentieth Century (or even earlier), you know that those outposts are there. They were planted by usage in the language of the time of derogatory terms that are politically incorrect today. But it wasn’t just the language. Also planted in those outposts were stereotypes, prejudices, and, in some cases, hatred. Knowing that they are there keeps one on high alert to not let those enemies escape the outpost and get out into your speech and your actions. These days there are new negative outposts being planted in our minds about such things as homophobia, stereotypes about recent immigrants or refugees, prejudices about religious preferences and more.
Other outposts which harbor our enemies within have other labels – fear, uncertainty, doubts, and anxiety. Many of these outposts have names ending in phobia. Some phobia’s have such strong footholds in our minds that they can become debilitating. There are thousands of phobias that people might experience. According to the Web site www.fearof.net, the top 10 phobias for 2015 are these:
- Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders
- Ophidiophobia – The fear of snakes
- Acrophobia – The fear of heights
- Agoraphobia – The fear of open or crowded spaces
- Cynophobia – The fear of dogs
- Astraphobia – The fear of thunder and lightning
- Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces
- Mysophobia – The fear of germs
- Aerophobia – The fear of flying
- Trypophobia – The fear of holes
There’s probably something on that list that you can relate to in your own life. I know that a couple make me squirm.
As debilitating as phobias can be the outposts in our minds that can lead us into depression are worse because they actually turn us against ourselves. We may have funny comedy skits about a phrase like “I’m not worthy”; but, that phrase, and the enemy outpost in the minds of many, lead them to dark places. Feelings of being unloved, unwanted, unworthy can be as debilitating as any phobia. The writings of too many recent serial killers point to the enemies within those outposts taking over and leading the person to take actions that we cannot even fathom. From the outside we ask, “How could they do that?” From the inside the answer too often is, “I had to.” The enemy within took over from the outposts in their heads and made them outcasts in their own minds.
What can we do to help ourselves and others fight off or keep under control these enemies within? Logic and rational thought can only take us so far. I suggest that we keep our friends just as close by giving them outposts in our heads, too. Just as you can have negative or ugly outposts in your head as the result of exposure to teachings and events, you can plant the good things to balance your life out by embracing faith and giving outposts to the teachings of the Bible. You can start small and simply by giving an outpost to the Ten Commandments. You can build an outpost for The Lord’s Prayer and raise the flag over another outpost for The Apostles Creed. Add to that outposts for the messages that you receive when you read the Bible or pray and soon you will find that the enemies that have outposts in your head will keep hunkered down in the holes where they live, because they cannot stand up to the light of the Son.
As I’ve mentioned here before in several posts, one of the most important steps that one can take is to let go of the need to feel in control of everything. The frustration and sense of defeat that comes from not being in control of events in your life can become overwhelming. Let it go. Use the simple little prayer that I’ve offered up here several times – “Not my will; but, thy will be done.” You aren’t giving up. You can keep trying; but realize that any and all outcomes must be accepted. It’s not your fault. I guess that makes the acceptance of God’s will the ultimate No Fault Insurance policy. Blast that over the outposts of evil that may lurk in your mind and those thoughts will keep their heads down where they belong.
Have a great day and keep building good outposts in your head.