Making Enemies

It would be fair to say that along the way, I have managed to seriously irritate and offend a few people, such that they’re either made that very vocal, or stopped speaking to me. Thinking about this last night, it occurred to me that I am not at all alone in this. Of the people I know, the ones who are most active seem to be the ones who also catch more flack from others.

A quiet person who does nothing controversial and keeps their opinions to themselves is unlikely to make enemies. The more neatly you fit into the expectations of others, the less you ask of them and the more convenient you are, the better, if you want everyone to be nice to you. But is nice the holy grail here? Certainly it makes life easier, but as anyone who reads my posts regularly will have noticed, I don’t think ease is the most important thing.

Enemies are made when we challenge or offend people. I recall an enmity that sprang up because I said ‘I am doing this voluntarily, I do not actually owe you anything, nor am I obliged to run round after you.’ There have been several instances now where people have made it very clear they were jealous of me – a girl who felt I’d been given every chance and opportunity when she had none and who took that as a reason to go on the offensive. (I know this because she was helpfully honest about it.) There are people who, having done little with their own lives, are offended by the success of others, perhaps because it brings their own choices into question.

Of course, betrayal, acting dishonourably, cheating, being corrupt, cruel or otherwise morally bankrupt is also a way of making enemies. If you treat people badly and without respect, most of them will not undertake to love you in return. If it is not your intention to make enemies in this way, then it is important to listen to the people you offend and ponder why they may feel as they do. We all make mistakes and can cause offence by accident. If someone takes umbrage at your words or deeds, then it is important to give their grievances fair hearing. If you can see an error, then it should be apologised for, explained and amended. That’s the only honourable response. “I’m sorry you feel that way, let’s see what we can do to fix things,” is usually a good place to start. With genuine desire to mend on both sides, the damage can be undone.

However, there are times when any of us will decide that the person complaining has no grounds to do so, or that the cry of ‘foul’ is in fact an attack in its own right. It is not an easy decision to come to, nor should it be reached lightly.

I have not sought to make enemies. Where I have caused distress, I usually try to make amends. There comes a time when the same person repeatedly finding problems takes a toll, demoralising and distressing. I have learned that if you hit the point of feeling that nothing you ever do is right, then maybe that’s because you aren’t going to be able to do anything right for this person. The time has  come to admit defeat and walk away.

Life is full of opportunities to learn. Sometimes the lesson calls for bending, flexibility, patience, tolerance and a willingness to change. Sometimes the lesson requires us to admit that we can do no more, and that it is beyond us to please or appease a certain person. For a person of integrity, that second lesson is by far the harder one. To be active is to risk offending someone. No one is obliged to try and make everyone happy. Making an enemy is not a thing to do lightly, but there are some people in this world who really do need offending.

9 thoughts on “Making Enemies”

  1. Sometimes, I have found that people are so disappointed in what life has “given” them that they are just angry at anyone who appears to be happy. They play the victim rather than taking steps to change what they are unhappy about and proceed to blame anyone who appears to have what they wish for.

    I had to learn the same lesson that sometimes you have to walk away and understand that no everyone will like you or love you.



  2. You know I have found that you can do everything as perfect as possible, try to be neutral, stay quiet as you said, get along with everyone and at the end of the day you will still make some enemies.Some people are just born to oppose, I think??? lol I honestly don’t know. I stay rather unaffected, though. Seems the only thing hate eats alive is the hater…not the hated. I’m not love and light either mind you. I’m just saying. It is what it is. Even the justified hater has to bring it all to an end at some point, and let go, ya know?


  3. Some people are very afraid of conflict. My opinion is without conflict there is no change. As a very vocal two-spirit activist, I pretty often piss people off. It’s not that people like me go out of our way to stir up trouble, but when folks open their mouth to say something out of order, it’s just not in my nature to let it slide. I want this world to be the place our children deserve, a place of safety and fairness, a place for people are judged for what they do, not what they are, without what they are being devalued in the process. Personally if the only way to make that happen is to keep pissing people off, I’m okay with that.


  4. I read this article and the responses with interest, because, on the day you posted it, also my birthday, I seem to have made an enemy of my own sister!

    She rang to ask a favour, long story, but basically to take her cat to the vet. I said that I had plans that day, and she hasn’t spoken to me since because she feels ‘let down’. Now it’s not as if i do nothing for her, but if I can’t do a favour or would rather not, at least I’m honest about it.

    Needless to say her silent treatment has caused me upset and distraction for the last two weeks, and it’s bound to be me who approaches first with the ‘olive branch’!


  5. Hi Sam, that sounds like a wholly irritating sort of experience, I hope you find a way to resolve it. Being the one who offers the olive branch can fix things, but in some ways allows the other to get away with it. Based on what you’ve said, she’s treated you unfairly there. The situation seems no justificaiton for taking umbrage with you.


  6. Thanks for your response Brynneth, that pretty much sums it up. Your article has helped me find the words to write a little note to her, succinctly appealing to her better nature. E.g. “I’m sorry you feel this way,” rather than apologising for my actions when I haven’t done anything wrong.

    I can also relate to this part of your post: “….instances now where people have made it very clear they were jealous of me…” Yes, I think my sister is jealous of me, because I work from home, without a horrible boss to answer to! (I use the term ‘work’ quite loosely!) Ha ha!
    So I’ll send the note and that’s the best I can do. I even drew a dove with an olive branch on the front. Thank you for helping move this situation along, Sam.


  7. Good luck Sam, glad my words have helped. ‘I’m sorry you feel this way’ is a good line to take, good diplomacy without taking full blame. I hope you can resolve things well from there.


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