The Difficulty in Trusting Someone Who Trusts Your Enemy

A friend called me up the other day and wanted to talk about how I understand the process of bridge building (if you are not clear on what this process looks like, you can watch this and read this). This friend was having problems entering into such spaces because, as they told me,

I just can’t dive fully into “bridge building” because your organization is friends with someone I hate.

This is a statement that I have received a few times recently, from both worldviews within the disconnect, and I would like to address it here.

First, if we are all honest with ourselves, there is probably someone in this world we hate–or, at least however you understand strongly dislike. What if a friend of yours was good friends with that person you hated (strongly disliked)? If I’m being honest again, that would really challenge the trust you might have in that friend.

How can my friend trust, like and be friends with this other person I hate? Can I actually trust my friend anymore? Have they been pulling a fast one on me?

Those are not only legitimate questions, but also questions that are at the core of entering into a bridge building process. Reconciliation cannot happen without two things:

1. The willingness to purse that which is disconnected;

2. Someone or something on the other end of the specturm who has hurt you in some very real way (hence the need for reconciliation in the first place).

Skepticism is an ever-present part of building bridges. But just like many revere the necessity of needing doubt to live fully in your faith, so must a healthy understanding of skepticism with the other happen in building bridges. Here are a few quick reminders of how to live into this skepticism inherent to building bridges with your “other”:

1. One cannot build bridges unless both of the opposing worldviews are actively engaged. That means intentionally facing and engaging with your enemy.

2. If one wants to change what is deemed as culturally normal (e.g. If a friend of mine is friends with someone I hate, then I must also now be skeptic of my friend), one must do what others are unwilling to do. Put down the fear and be bold enough to actually enter the bridge building process; in proximity to your enemy.

3. Sometimes there is no common ground. Sometimes, the common ground is only the commitment to the bridge building process. Building bridges doesn’t mean everyone will agree. It means we can view each other through a lens of worth in our shared humanity, and do good through that view, together.

Even I ran into this exact problem the other week. A friend of mine is quite good friends with a person who has been a very outspoken critic of mine. This outspoken critic has blatantly lied about me in public, made things up about me, obsessively tweets about “the horrors” of me and The Marin Foundation, and has yet to ever talk to me, despite the numerous times I’ve reached out to them.

When I found out that my friend was actually close with this cowardly hater I was deeply offended. I immediately questioned my own trust with my friend. I literally looked at him differently.

How could he ever, ever be friends with such a person?!

Then I caught myself spiraling down this nonconstructive path.

And I quickly realized, I was falling into the same patterns that I ask others to fight against everyday of my life. At that moment I took a deep breath and reassessed my own importance. Reassessed the feelings that come with such an offense. Then began to understand the boldness it takes to suspend hate and insecurity is far greater than the effort it takes to insecurely hate others that hate me for, as I understand it, no good reason.

So what did I do?

I called my friend and had a conversation about why he was such good friends with that other person who was causing so much unnecessary drama.

I came to quickly find out that this other person was not just an evil picture on the interwebs writing horrible lies, etc about me. But this other person was, indeed, a person.

My heart softened, my view of them inched its way to changing, ever so briefly. But the process has begun. I again reached out to my enemy (they didn’t respond, again). But the next time they went public with “horrors” about me, I did see them differently. Their lies still hurt, but what hurt more is that I actually had an emotional response and connection to them (which greatly frustrated me). But none the less I was once again reminded of how powerful bridge building is–even if there ultimately is no bridge to be built.

How I view others, especially those that hate me, is on me. And whether anyone ever agrees with me, likes me or says nice things about me (or not), I know I’m committed to living life the right way as a reconciliatory agent for good.

I must learn to love God enough to see God in my critics.

Much love.

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  • Great thoughts here. This is very difficult to not make people guilty by association, especially when you have been wounded by a connected party. The funny part is, you can really hear another side of your critic through that middle-man and, at times, come to appreciate them or at least develop a different filter towards them.

    • Love that… “develop a different filter”. That’s is a perfect way to say it.

  • Beth Marin

    Very difficult to do, but a lesson we all need to learn. Thanks for putting yourself out there everyday. Be blessed!

  • Annie

    I’m going through this right now, but I’m coming to a different conclusion, after initially trying to act as you suggest. The issue isn’t always just “hate”, it’s safety.

    Lets say this person who attacks you had also threatened you or in some way directly endangered or damaged you. Your friend is also their friend. Should this be the same as with someone you just “don’t like”? I think a real difference in approach is needed for people who have abused and endangered you in some tangible, objectively observable way. These people would gladly and easily cause pain and damage if given access to your life, and these “friends in the middle”–in effort to be peacemakers–can give this person that access, and they don’t (or won’t) realize the stakes.

    I’m going through the painful process now of removing friends from my circle who are still friends with a very unsafe person. I tried to avoid this originally, but after TWICE having these “friends” pass information that could endanger me on to my “enemy” because they wanted try and help us reconcile, I’ve come to realize that it’s just not physically safe to be friends with them anymore. I hate to make people chose, but they’ve been informed of the situation and they still don’t get it. I’m sad to have to cut them off, but sometimes ditching the friend in the middle is the safe, right decision to make.

  • You act as if you’re queer and experience the same things as us! You act as if you’re a martyr, Andrew! Queer people didn’t choose to be queer or to be treated the way we are so much of the time! You chose to involve yourself and in the public eye! Just because people adamantly disagree with you doesn’t make them haters! Hate towards the queer community is real because it’s directed at our core! And your tshirt stating ‘I heart haters’ makes me wanna smh! Get over yourself!

    • Great points. I’ve never ever said, thought or tried to be/represent LGBT people or their experiences. In fact, I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m not queer and can never know a queer person’s experiences. I do know my experiences in Boystown as a straight man in a neighborhood that for the past 12 years has loved me and we have done great work together. That is the view in which I speak and write from, because it is the only view which I live everyday.

      This post is not about martyrdom, and the content of this post happens in all of our everyday lives, not just those in the “public eye” (as you can see from the other comments). Also, I was just being real about my feelings, as are you in your comment. Authentic communication, yours or mine, can never be overstated. And I appreciate yours very much.

      I have never believed that ‘disagreement equals haters.’ I’ve actually said and written that sentiment many times, most recently here:

      I have no problem with those who disagree with me. I do have a problem with people who disagree with me and then spread lies, etc, around the internet about things that have been proven not true. So I do feel there’s a difference.

      About the shirt- It’s a popular clothing brand, Dirty Ghetto Kids. I’ve had it since before I was “public.” It’s just a funny shirt. I saw lots of them at pride a few weekends ago, too.

      Thanks for commenting.