When the Friend of My Enemy is My Friend

READER POST: Several years ago, we met a family through our LDS church. We immediately hit it off and, since they were looking for a new place to live, they moved next door to us. Now we attended the same ward and lived next door to each other, but nothing worked out how we had hoped.

It was a Sunday when this neighbor punched my husband out.  I had not seen it, because I was still inside, putting my shoes on after our teen daughter had warned us that the neighbors were in our back yard. I got to the door and my husband was coming back in, stunned. From her bedroom window, our daughter had witnessed her father confront the neighbor verbally and then saw the neighbor knock him out cold. Our daughter watched her dad fall to the ground and stay there. She was afraid, but after a few seconds he regained consciousness and came inside.  

All I knew at that moment as I was going out the door was that he’d been punched. I watched the neighbor slink back to his house and I yelled at him, “I can’t believe you punched my husband!” He ignored me and went inside.

My husband is not a large man and was probably forty pounds lighter than the neighbor and several inches shorter. When he came inside, he was in shock. Later that day, the hurt he felt was emotional pain. My husband is not physically aggressive at all; I believe he had never truly expected violence from the neighbor who used to be his friend. He’d had enough trust and hope that he believed that confronting him would yield a good resolution.

That moment was a turning point in the drawn-out ordeal with the neighbors. But something else happened, also unexpected. Within minutes, our two friends drove up. They are brothers, and they are both taller and stronger than the neighbor. They were just dropping by, and did not know about what had just transpired, but the neighbor did not know that. All he saw was our strong, caring friends showing up at the critical moment, completely willing to protect us.

For me, this was extremely comforting. Not only did they comfort us in our shock, but they were at our side as we made the police report. This was also important to me in the days that followed, because I knew that the neighbor knew that we were protected.

It took more than a year for the neighbors to move. We owned and they rented, and at first, they swore to stay and “make [our] lives miserable.” Our friends spent a lot of time at our house. But one brother also did something else. He knew the neighbor from the time he served as an LDS missionary, and served in their ward, years previously. This brother was diplomatic enough that he was able to come over to our house, spend time with us, and also check on the neighbor, and see how they were doing. Over time, he listened to them, tried to understand their needs and to offer his own assistance. Eventually, he helped them find a new place to live, and he helped them move.

There are not enough words to express how grateful I am for the person our friend was to us, but also for who he was to our enemy. He saw a volatile situation and he understood that all communication and good will had degraded between us and the neighbors. He knew that the only way for us to reconcile would be to expose ourselves to more abuse from the neighbor. So he went in for us. He exercised patience and kindness that calmed the volatility, something we all benefitted from that year.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Wars and conflicts throughout history readily demonstrate this truism, even if it only applies temporarily. I can see how it works. However, our friend showed us something better, something that is less visible in the fog of history and more difficult to accomplish. Being a peacemaker is more powerful and more valuable.

Blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are the friends of the peacemakers. I am blessed.

~Rebecca D.~

Rebecca was chopping lettuce in the kitchen of the BYU Cougareat when she fell in love with the dishwasher and his heavy French accent. Twenty years on, they and their children have lived on both sides on the Atlantic.

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