Robert Thurman: Love Your Enemy

The Buddhist psychology tradition, in particular,
and the Asian psychologies in general and actually the ancient Christian monastic psychologies
do have a strong theory and a strong practice really of overcoming bitterness, hatred, resentment,
vengefulness and so forth. Carrying a little further from Moses’s already restraining idea
of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. In other words, you don’t take a leg or a
life for an eye, you know. Or a life for a tooth, you know, just another tooth. Which was already a step forward from the
old vengeance idea of tribal attitude. And Jesus’s and Buddha’s greater idea of really
love your enemies and how to unpack that in a modern setting. And people get nervous about
it because they think if you love your enemies it means you’re gonna cave to them, you’re
gonna be a martyr, you’re gonna invite them to come and destroy you and just be a masochist
and so forth. And that is not at all what it means. Love means in the Asian psychological
term and I think really in any term it means the wish for the beloved happiness. To want
to make the one you love happy. That’s what love really is. It isn’t really greed and
wish to possess although some kinds of love tend to mix with that of the egotistical person. The reason someone is your enemy is they think
you’re preventing their happiness. Somehow you have something they want, you’re in their
way, whatever it is, the world isn’t big enough for the both of you type of attitude. And
so they’re gonna be your enemy because they’re unhappy and they think by getting rid of you
they’ll be happy. So if they were happy already without messing with you they might be wanting
to leave you alone because it’s no fun to go attack people. It’s like, it’s an exercise,
you know. It’s not like you are giving a caress or receiving one. So loving your enemies is
actually practical advice. And Martin Luther King, for example, when
he went back the second time to that bridge in Birmingham, John Lewis says that he was
advised by his friends, “Come on. Don’t get into how we’re gonna love those guys, those
cops who are sicking dogs and hoses and beating us and jailing us and torturing us.” Then
Martin Luther King said, “No, it’s too bitter a burden to bear hatred and resentment. We
do love them. Of course we oppose them and we are against them and we don’t want them
to behave like that but we don’t hate them. That’s just a ridiculous waste of our energy.”
And in a way you can see that being an enemy who has hurt you has already hurt you. If
you go around nursing hatred and vindictiveness and how to get back at them you’re hurting
yourself. When you oppose your enemy — and by saying your enemy, someone they think they’re
your enemy. Hopefully if you love your enemy you have no enemy. But when you oppose that
person which you can do, you can have tough love. You can have fierce compassion. When they
sense that you’re doing it because you want their betterment actually because it’s not
good for them to be mean to you and so on. Then actually it has a little different edge
to it and, for example, if you’re trying to get them to see reason there’s a better chance
they’ll be able to listen to you when they don’t feel the weight of hatred and a destructive
vibration toward them coming through the speech, you know, what’s in the style of the energy
of the speech. Your motivation will make it more successful.


  1. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer… This is how i chose to deal with my enemies instead of loving them..

  2. Sorry Grandpa, your religious ideology hasn't worked for the last two thousand years now. Secular humanism is the way to go.

  3. Why was Mahatma Gandhi successful with his peaceful non-violent methods (with the British…NOT the Muslims)? Because he was dealing with a civilized society and he had a degree in their Law. What would have happened to Gandhi gi had he tried the same methods on the Nazis or on Stalin?
    How far would Martin Luther King's civil rights movement have  succeeded in North Korea?
    It cost Nelson Mandela 30 years in prison and a not so non-violent movement in South Africa to get rid of apartheid.

  4. Terribly naive! An enemy is one by definition to oppose. One of the first principles in fighting/martial arts is to avoid confrontation. Not try to understand why they are wrong and This guy is living in a ideological cloud. 

  5. You are assuming that your enemies are reasonable folks who don't actually want to fight you.

    Against anyone else, loving them will do you no good.

  6. I think that love your enemy implies that love and hate are polar opposites and are the only two options. Love and hate really tend to be very close in definition and both contain obsessive qualities. Obsessing over something is not good and  I would, therefore, prefer to think of a scale between love and hate and always place myself somewhere in the middle, depending on the situation of course.

  7. I don't think EDGE should cost so much. I don't get it. Do you have to pay these people to give their information? If so they are ass holes. What are they gonna go build a pyramid or an army? This you tube a place to share ideas not pay for them. But love the concept

  8. There is a much larger point here—Might there not be so many innocent people in imprison or on death row. Thus you believe it's OK that one innocent person be imprisoned as long as we incarcerate a whole bunch of "bad" guys?

  9. A Catholic priest is said to have asked Voltaire, on his deathbed, to renounce Satan, to which Voltaire is said to have replied: "Now is not the time for making new enemies."

  10. Let's be honest; none of us have any enemies. Not on a personal/social level. The only enemies we have are political, like Taliban and Al-qaida and so on. But we don't hate them as the kind of hate he is talking about because we don't think of them at all. Only briefly when they are on the news maybe. So there is no energy that's being spend to hatred as he phrased it. So this message don't apply to the vast majority of people in the western world. 

    However there is still a moderately important lesson to be taken here if you let out the word 'enemy' because you can still be full of hatred and resentment without having an enemy. The lesson is: Don't hate. At all. Be pragmatic and reasonable. Find a way to cut out of your life whatever/whoever it is that fills you with hatred and resentment. Check if you're not the problem; maybe there isn't something to hate. 

  11. The idea that you ought to love your enemy is perverse and pathologically suicidal. Why should I wish for the happiness of one who seeks to destroy me if my destruction will make them happy? That's nonsense. And this idea is predicated on the false dilemma that if you don't love your enemy, then you must hate them. That's wrong. Not loving someone does NOT mean you must be committed to hating them.

    One of the fundamental flaws of Martin Luther King Jr.'s philosophy was the idea that one could not defend themselves even if lethal force was threatened and/or used against them. This is ridiculous. My self-respect, dignity, and value as a human being demands that I use violence, and lethal force if necessary, to defend myself when presented with such unjust treatment.

    So, NO, I do not and will not ever love my enemies. I seek to oppose them at all costs and destroy them if necessary.

  12. wellsaid im a happy guy and i always say i dont really hate my enemy no matter what i just dont bfee like i have to should

  13. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -mlk jr.

  14. Usually I like the comments on this channel, but I swear that this time it feels like nobody made it 30 seconds into the video. 

  15. This is way too idealistic, and in order to survive we must embrace both parts of who we are. A guy pointing a gun in your face isn't going to stop and think how will this make me look to other people? The thing this relies on is a sense of karmic justice balancing things out, but that's a bullshit notion. No child deserves to have horrible illness and to die but they still do. The world isn't fair and it doesn't care about you. So you can release all the "positive" energy you want, it's not going to save your life when you need it to. For that you need some sense.

  16. I agree. Love everyone, but don't always expect people who hate you to change just because you don't hate them in return. Some people cannot be reasoned with. Some people just want to watch the world burn.
    That said, fighting fire with fire is pointless. Making peace should be the first option.

  17. great message, i did have to watch it again just listening to the audio. not to be disrespectful but personally if i only had one eye id be rockin the eye patch. much more intriguing and bad ass then an eye that doesn't correspond with the rest of your facial movements

  18. I'm surprised by how out-of-context the people in these comments are arguing. Thurman is talking about enemies, but he doesn't mean terrorists and other worthless people who actually want to straight-up kill or maim you.

    The first thing he did was congratulate some of the first ancient philosophies and psychologies which promoted "overcoming bitterness, hatred, resentment, vengefulness, and so forth" instead of "the old vengeance idea" which he called a "tribal attitude."

    And yet YouTube users in the comments here talked about terrorists and literally destroying one's enemies. Thurman just meant that in this day and age where we live mostly peaceful, happy lives, if your neighbor, coworker, lover, etc. causes hurt unto you, you ought to take on this attitude of "love" towards them. This is an attitude that an offended person should embrace. And it isn't for your enemy–it's for YOU.

    If you spend your time hating your boss for chewing you out in front of your peers or your wife for embarrassing you in front of your friends and children, you are wasting energy. You should instead spend your energy opposing these mostly harmless "frenemies" in a "loving" way. He's just suggesting that you walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes and try-to-see-it-their-way in order to make them happy. When they're happy, they won't bother you. It takes more work from you to do this "love" thing, but it pays off.

    However, I think we can Allah-gree that there are people in this world who are impossible to make happy and who will go to the grave in order to destroy us. He isn't talking about those people. As for them, oppose them to the bitter end. The man isn't advising us to love people who want to murder us straight out.

  19. False dichotomy (Black/white thinking)

    Love or hate? Resentment or wishing well? Are those our only options?

    I personally chose to just walk away. 

  20. This was just what I needed to hear at just the right time! I thank you for posting this video and hope everyone can take something from it!

  21. "Make them see reason."

    Anybody chime in: how many times has that worked for you with someone who wants to harm you for personal gain or gratification? This is the kind of BS they pushed on us in school and succeeded only in raising a generation of victims and victimizers. 

  22. "Love" isnt necesary  to avoid resentment, to be compassionate towards someone who hurt you is a round about way of denying your weakness and inability to act on the spot, thus positioning yourself higher morally than your enemy will give you the false sense of superiority, Nietzsche said it more elegantly and accurately 100 years ago, true that resentment is a self consuming feeling and must be eliminated properly but compassion is just another way of resentment in certain contexts.

  23. i wonder how the philosophy would apply on an international level? what if nation x were to "love" nation y after they've been bombed? or what if the enemy seeks to exploit that "love" you have for them and use it to hurt you further?

    imo, peace and love is always the first and optimal solution, but sometimes, extreme measures cold be justified

  24. Jesus said love your enemy with the idea in mind that love is going to be the most important factor to survive the end of the world; Armageddon, gods war to end war. Loving your enemy is imitating your Heavenly Father Jehovah which is needed for peace in the new world to last. God will deal with those hating you. That's why Jesus and the apostles could die without putting up a fight because they new that god would handle the wicked men of the world.

    May Jah have mercy on all of mankind. Some will not submit to his will, others will. In fact his kingdom is functioning right now with the goal of helping people understand and live by love but soon it's going to act as a judge of the world with Christ as the judge and king to remove all these other governments from the face of the planet for the greater good of all mankind.

  25. i like that end part, make your enemy see reason through fierce compasion. If someone is talking shit and ruining your relationships with friends, you dont try and fight them or do the same thing they do, you try and make them see reason, make them see that they are wasting energy and time on hate which is pointless. haha struck home for a situation with me

  26. Very strong words, I was actually about to reply to some obvious users with that whole "race superiority" ordeal. But, after giving this guys words some thought I decided not to, essentially in the end they(The "Enemy") can never be "beaten" because most of them are actually just trolls, who like alot of us realize only want to be the menacing "enemy" forever. There's definitely some needed thought appon this type of thinking though, he's correct in that constantly pondering over your "enemy" does in fact, damage you, mentally and in some cases physically. Maybe we can actually love our enemies while at the same time opposing them, think about it, you also need them to help you mature in so many ways. 

  27. What goes around comes around. If you decide someone deserves a punch in the face, someone will decide that you deserve the same. It might be the one you punched, or it might not be, but violence must always be reserved for when every other means of reasoning has failed – walking away included.

  28. The saying itself should really be changed in order to mean what the guy is saying. Otherwise we'd need a few minutes to explain it like he did, before we actually use it. Completely umpractical.

  29. Robert Thurman is a pseudo-intellectual. You go love your own enemy I will fight them. Thurman thinks he is so deep with "his" idea of not dehumanizing them

  30. Good advice, but I don't think it would work on psychopaths, as they have no empathy and actively seek to destroy other people.

  31. This gentleman strikes me as someone that thinks you can love someone (your enemy) into changing – into transforming into a good person. This is nothing more than wishful-thinking masquerading as wisdom. for example the late OBL wanted Americans dead – the more the better. Love was not going to stop him – not anyone's love. JGSF

  32. This should be fairly standard philosophy. It's no mystery that compassion for everyone improves not only your own quality of life, but that of those who are affected by it. I believe that hatred can be useful because it's a powerful motivator, but at the same time it should never be directed towards another person. Rather, it should be directed towards an idea, if it is necessary.

    Hopefully, hatred will be abandoned because it is made obsolete by respect. 

  33. I'm black. I'm not about to start "loving" every single racist person on this planet in an effort to abolish racism because in some cases it could be dangerous. Plus I highly doubt that they would be willing to ignore their customs. And just because I don't agree with their opinions on race, doesn't mean I hate them. 

    But I agree with everything else that was mentioned

  34. Ugh.
    Let's repeat the trusted flaw in these concepts: "Utopian ethics don't work in the real world because the real world isn't utopian. That's why you use ethics to try and come as close to that utopian state of the world as possible starting from the real world, instead of presupposing that utopian state and working backwards."

  35. he misunderstands the Christianity doctrine.. 'an eye for an eye' punishment was from the Mosaic laws that governed the Jewish society. it doesn't mean that individuals should hate their enemy. but it was a formal punishment for law-breakers because it was the law.
    When Jesus Christ said 'turn the other cheek', it has a symbolic meaning of how individuals should treat each other. but it's not about the law itself. He never said the previous Mosaic laws are now invalid. He never said the laws or the punishments were wrong. The laws were enforced by the government, not individuals. it means that although government can punish sinners, individual person should still love and care for the enemy.
    Also, the Christian meaning 'love' is completely different from the 'emotional' form of love. the 'love' in Christianity is actually doing something good for someone other than yourself. It doesn't mean that you should love your enemy like you have feelings for him. It means that even if you hate him emotionally, you should still embrace him and help him if he's in trouble. if your enemy is thirsty, give him water. if your enemy asks you to walk 10 miles with him, walk 30 miles.
    'love' in Christianity is not emotional one, but it's a sacrificial one that requires action.

  36. Why not just be apathetic towards your enemy? Why not just be civilized?  Love is too loaded and depending on who your enemy is, can actually enable them. 

  37. It is quite sad to see so many people react so negatively to this. What Jesus and Buddha said was not proposed in the name of efficiency or utilitarianism, but simply because it's right! It's wrong to hate people and it's right to love people, even if they wish your death. Surely, it is very difficult and at times we do need to hurt our enemies, when we have no other choice. But the entire idea is loving every other person and be upset about their misdoings as you would be about your own. Convincing ourselves that this level of righteousness and forgiveness is unachievable is simply not good enough…

  38. After watching this video, there were nine photos of people displayed from which I can choose to watch nine other videos from Big Think. Not one of them looked happy, not one of them looked peaceful.

  39. This is the kind of guy Ghenghis Khan would have loved to inflict on other people.

    Nothing softens up a people for the kill like retarded hippies.

  40. Thanks Prof Thurman – sometimes painful feelings can reawaken so strongly that it is difficult to remember this teaching. I appreciate your wise reminder.

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