Meet Anikin, my sons’ imaginary enemy

Image: Meet Anikin, my sons’ imaginary enemy

Learning to love your enemies - real or fake.

Some children have imaginary friends. My two little boys have an imaginary enemy, called 'Anikin'. They use amazing amounts of energy thinking up ways to get him and make him angry. Hey, there are times they even would be happy to kill him.

Anikin usually comes out when the two boys have been fighting each other. They feel angry so they want to fight, they certainly don’t want to say sorry to each other, but they realise they don’t want to fight each other, so they combine forces and focus them on their imaginary enemy. I’m just hoping they never meet a real child called Anikin...

Jesus talked about enemies in Luke 6:35. He said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Having an enemy can be a useful thing in life. An enemy is a person on whom we can heap all the blame, the badness and the evil of the world.

"It's her fault, it's his fault, it's because of them," we say.

It’s easy, like my children do, to start creating enemies that don’t really exist. It's what Hitler did to the Jews, it's what different racial groups do to each other. It's even what some Christians do to other groups of Christians.

Having an enemy is like playing a game. If we're both playing our parts, we will hate each other, and we will have a relationship which benefits us both in a funny sort of way. If I put all my bad feelings onto my enemy and he puts all his onto me, we can happily dehumanise each other, think of each other in stereotypes and never have to acknowledge that we are both people whom God loves. And by treading on each other, we can feel better about ourselves.

If we loved our enemies, we would refuse to lump all our badness onto someone else. We would have to take responsibility for our own faults and the evil that we find in ourselves. We would have to admit that we are equal with our enemies in our failings and humanness.

If we loved our enemies, our enemies would be unable to dump all their badness onto us because we would not play the 'enemy' game. We would let them take responsibility for their faults and failings.

If we loved our enemies, we would refuse to take the easy road to good feelings about ourselves by pushing our enemies down. We would have to find our good feelings somewhere else. And we would be brave in admitting that God loves them as well as us.

It would be much better if my boys were able to admit that they were wrong in fighting each other, say sorry and move on. I’m hoping that Anikin will disappear soon. For myself, it’s a great reminder to love my real enemies, to stop creating false ones, and to find my self-worth in the fact that God loves me.

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