On Having Enemies

“You’ve got enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood for something, sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill

If you follow TTAF for any length of time, you’ll come to realize that most of us are huge fans of Winston Churchill around here, if for no other reason than the quotes he provides (both inspiring and incredibly humorous). That’s a ludicrous statement. Of course his quotes are great, but there are numerous reasons to respect and/or admire Churchill. After all, he’s considered one of the greatest war-time leaders of all time. He was an officer in the British Army, a Prime Minister, a(n) historian, Nobel Prize winning author, artist, as well as many other government positions.

What made Churchill’s leadership so great, to a large extent, were his unwavering beliefs in what was right. His unwavering beliefs in what needed to be done, no matter what others thought, and his refusal to be deterred from the direction in which he was headed. (Hence the whole “unwavering” thing). You never had to guess where Churchill stood on an issue. He was upfront, outspoken, and bold in his proclamations. But as much as Churchill was, and still is, respected for this attribute, it didn’t always make him popular. In fact, Churchill attracted a huge amount of criticism throughout his political career. Just take a moment and google Winston Churchill Lady Astor quotes and you’ll see some of the animosity people held toward the man (as well as some of the wit that we love around here). But that’s why I love the quote at the top of the page.

“You’ve got enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood for something, sometime in your life.”

Churchill was a man who stood for things. There was never an issue on which he remained lukewarm; instead he would educate himself on the topic at hand and take a stand, no matter how his views were perceived.

Is that the case anymore? When you think of today’s leaders, do you feel that they know where they stand and why? Well, maybe. But let me put it this way, when you think of the positions leaders take, do you truly get the impression that they would take that stand regardless of public opinion?

What about you?

Is there anything in your life that means enough to you that you’d stand up for it even if it wasn’t popular? Are there stands you take even if it would create enemies?
Honestly, I’m not sure how often I can answer that positively. I know there are things I should feel that way about, but all too often I remain silent, avoid the issue, cave, or I just change the topic of discussion when it comes up. Now I know not everyone is like me. Many of you will stand strong and proud of your ideals. Many of you will do so to a degree that annoys people like me, the same way Churchill annoyed those he was around. But I also have a feeling I’m not alone.

Why is that? Why is it that we’re all too often so unwilling to stand up for our values. I can think of at least two reasons. The first is that we’re desensitized to the ills of the world. Think about it for a moment. Is there anything you accept today that, if you stepped back and looked at it, you’re shocked it just doesn’t bother you anymore than it does? Are we so desensitized to what goes on around us that we just don’t care anymore?

The second reason is that maybe we’re just too worried about being politically correct. Maybe we just care too much about what people may say when we walk out of the room. Let me also say this, though, I do think there is a legitimate argument that one can become too offensive in the way they stand up for something. While I think Churchill is an excellent model of unwavering belief, he was also a very pragmatic man who was focused on results. That said, if one is obnoxious about some belief for the sake of being obnoxious, or, because nobody would admit to that, if someone is preaching what they believe for the sole purpose of letting you know what they believe, that will be nothing other than annoying. The whole point of this exercise is to stand up for a noble cause in such a way that the world becomes a better place. In such a way that real change happens and that people want to rally behind you and follow. Saying things like, “God hates _____” or “If you do ______, you suck and are a terrible person,” will most certainly make you enemies. It, however, will also most certainly not help your cause. You might get an “amen” or two from the choir, but you will not change any of the minds you hope to. You’ll just be obnoxious. That caveat aside, let me ask again:

Is there anything in your life that means enough to you that you’d (actually) stand up to it even if it wasn’t a popular thing to do? Even if it made some enemies?

What is it that is keeping you from doing so?

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