When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (In other words how to turn an enemy into a friend. – Proverbs 16:7
In second grade our teachers would march us in single-file lines from one room to another, often passing other classes in the meantime. One day we passed a line of first graders. When I made eye-contact with a new girl I had never seen before she stuck her tongue out at me. The next time my class passed her class in the hall she did the same again, and so on for several weeks. I’d like to think I was more ladylike than her but at some point, I began sticking my tongue out at her as well.
Then one day, out of the blue, instead she smiled at me. I was so shocked I didn’t know how to respond. I figured she was just messing with me and next time I saw her she would stick out her tongue at me again.
But the next time we passed in the hallway she smiled – again! I did not know what brought about this change but in my confusion, I smiled back. From that point on we were friends, no conversation – no questions – just friends. And Courtney and I remained good friends for several years until her family moved out of state.
This was my first experience turning an enemy into a friend and although all it took was a smile on my part, I think it set a groundwork for how to turn enemies into friends for the rest of my life: don’t retaliate, forgive quickly, and smile.
Fast forward years – more like decades – when I started a new job as a financial reporter where I’d supposedly be anchoring clips on the stock market for a company hoping to one day be the next Reuters.
From the very first day, I had a female co-worker who made it clear I was not welcome. Eventually, other co-workers of ours told me that she was not happy about having another woman in the office and even less so that I had more experience than her. She wrongly assumed I came looking to compete and prepared herself for that fight. But instead of retaliating, I did this instead.
3 Steps to Turn an Enemy Into a Friend
I once heard it takes more character for a strong woman to remain gracious and feminine during trials than to fight back. I guess God just wanted to make sure I had plenty of opportunities to practice.
And practice I did. As soon as I arrived in the morning and until I left for the day, I was constantly told I was slow, stupid, and performing “way under expectations” – her favorite phrase. She would scream at me, swear at me, and even teamed up with another co-worker to try to make my daily life a living hell. Ultimately her goal was to get me to quit, or get fired.
She spread false lies about me that were almost impossible to fight. Once she told my boss I had a “negative attitude” and mistreated her. Making matters worse, he believed her and told me I better change my attitude, or I may not be the right fit for the company. I was speechless; she was wicked and crafty. And shamefully, I spent many lunch breaks crying in my car.
SIDE NOTE – I don’t tell you this story to put her down, but to show what kinds of miracles God can perform within our relationships if we let Him. Because Christ not only sustained me but was continuing to transform me more and more to His likeness.
October 31, 2009
Instead of praying for “things to get better” or even strength to keep going, I find myself praying to forgive my co-workers for whatever they may do or say that day. To even love them and have them see something different, appealing (hopefully Christ) in me. That just shows how much Christ IS in me because those prayers certainly don’t come from me. Left to my own natural thoughts you don’t want to know what I think about her…
RELATED: 3 Times Specific Prayers were Answered in My Life
December 21, 2009
Work is stressful, but today was okay. The more they throw at me, the more I take it and do well. Christ has really been working in my heart, keeping my mouth shut, giving me patience, and helping me to love those I would have hated if I had let my own feelings rule.
Forbes: 8 Tips to Deal with Difficult People
January 3, 2010
If there is one thing I’ve learned lately, it is this: God loves, guides, gives, forgives and blesses – but He cannot make us happy. That is up to us, even during the times He seems distant or tests us.
They can lie about me, talk down to me, and I can still choose to be happy.
And while He equipped me with super-human patience, He also gave me wisdom. I was to turn the other cheek, yes, but I was also to start commanding respect (notice I didn’t say demanding, but commanding) by speaking the truth when it was called for, and taking back the position I was hired to do in the first place but she purposely kept from me – as head anchor. From that point on I also began to love my actual job more, making the situation easier as well.
January 30, 2010
Work has been getting extraordinarily better. It amazes me to see how the Holy Spirit kept me following the Word, choosing Christ, being a lady – and it really did work out. I understand things will be hard and then easy – and then good and bad, but I can’t wait to watch God’s plan unfold.
RELATED: Learning to Surrender My Career to God
February 13, 2010
It ever it seems God is silent and leaving you without any help in a difficult time – He may just be saying “Keep going! Trust me.” What a difference a month can make. A few months ago I’d come home crying every day and very upset and yet now everyone is being ridiculously nice to me. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. But as Proverbs 16:7 says: When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
You might think this is the end of the story, but just when it seemed things at work were turning a corner, the company hired another girl around our age. At first, we got along great. But it was soon obvious she and my other colleague were – as the saying goes – two peas in a pod. And unfortunately, they found pleasure in trying to torment me.
I think they disliked me more because I didn’t play their games and didn’t push back. And so I continued to pray. “Lord, help me forgive them. Help me love them the way you do.” I had to repeat this every morning on my way to work. The thing about the Bible is, it promises that whenever we pray according to God’s will, He hears us.
And He heard me.
He continued to fill me with kindness towards them. He gave me the strength not to retaliate in kind, but to always answer respectfully and help out where needed. I shed many more tears on my lunch break. But each day God still got me in my car and had me drive to that job, determined to make enemies out of friends.
RELATED: How to Win Friends and Influence People (for Christ) at Work.
Day in and day out I turned the other cheek. Day in and day out I responded with kind words and never let them see me get ruffled. At one point they realized I wouldn’t play their mouse in their cat and mouse game any longer and started leaving me alone. Ignoring me, actually, but it was better than the alternative.
Then one day they started pulling me into their conversation and asking me to grab lunch. And just like that – we became friends.
Even more surprisingly, my initial co-worker who hated me from the start began to confide in me and seek advice. When I finally moved to Washington, D.C. for another job she even gave me a farewell gift and a hug. It’s probably a good thing she couldn’t see the surprised look on my face. When a man’s ways please the Lord, He can make even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)
Just like with Courtney, I learned we must not retaliate when others hurt us. We must forgive quickly. And that with God – and a smile – we can turn an enemy into a friend.
If you liked this you might also enjoy: 5 Surprising Characteristics of a Peacemaker
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Tanvi Rastogi says
It is wonderful how our perspective, patience and smile can turn things around. I am glad that you have mastered that art. More power to you!
Friendship definitely takes work! I have been thinking a lot about friendships and having grace with each other. Love these tips!
What a great story! I’m so glad you took the high road and had grace throughout the whole situation. A great lesson and reminder for all of us! Let’s choose community over competition!
Yes! Always community over competition. 🙂
Melissa Javan says
You are brave. I had a colleague like this but I couldn’t smile at her, she was so rude. Eventually she turned around just before she lost her job. Thank you for this post – I will remember this.
Thanks, Melissa. It was tough but worth it!
Amy | Confessions of a Daydreamer says
I love this! I so admire your determination and grace in this situation. I definitely have been in your shoes before and I probably could have handled things better…. But I’m working on pausing and thinking (praying) before I react! Thank you for sharing 🙂
To forgive is to free yourself from the heavy emotion you have with that certain person, loved this post! I admire how you have shared your true story to inspire others!
Thank you so much!
Crystal // Dreams, etc. says
This is an awesome story! It’s so true, though. Retaliating won’t help, it will only make things worse. Most importantly, it’s not how God wants us to respond. Thanks for sharing your story!
Thanks, Crystal! I learn best from other’s stories too
Julie Hood says
Aww, what a sweet story! Amen on not retaliating and getting bitter…that definitely wouldn’t show God’s love!
Very difficult to do on my own – that’s for sure.
Jennifer Smith says
Wow. Wow. Wow. This is so powerful. I hope I can be as patient as you if the need arises. Thank you for your story, it’s super inspirational and exactly what I needed to hear.
Thank you, Jennifer!
Thank you for sharing! I love your sweet heart and grace in this situation. You inspire me in my own trials right now with others. Thank you again! 🙂
I appreciate your kind words. Thankfully I was not left to my own devices or I would not have handled it so well!
Lux G. says
What an inspiring story! Who would’ve thought, huh? Sometimes life has a funny way of turning things around.
I’m impressed you were able to do that. I feel like that would have broken me. I don’t understand how people can be so hateful.
It was TOUGH that’s for sure.
What a great idea for a blog post. I love this article. Puts a positive spin on a bad friendship and ways to turn it around! Loved it =)
You are so right about not retaliating and forgiveness. A smile goes a long way also, just throwing that in there. I’m glad that I found your site.
Thanks, Chrissy! It’s amazing what one small gesture can change.
This post has particular relevance to me as I’m basically at war with my neighbor. I do my best not to hate them and I am concerned for how my dislike of them is getting out of control. BUT they an insufferable and daily make living in my house impossible. And they are rude and refuse to even admit it. Le sigh, off to put on headphones..
Oh no! I’m sorry you’re going through that. Maybe it will resolve itself or one day you will have a different neighbor 🙂 Stay strong!
I’m so impressed with you! What a great story! I love how you were able to take what you learned as a little girl, and then use it as an adult. That’s awesome how God honored your grace in that hard relationship. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks, Lila! One of the hardest things i’ve gone through but such a life-changer.
D at Be you and thrive says
Such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing each of these stories. Much can be taken away!! Thanks!!
Danielle @ A Sprinkle of Joy says
Wow. Way to handle yourself in a tough situation.
It was tough – that’s for sure! 🙂