Enemy Mode or Allies, A Choice We Can Make

I need to confess something to you, I have not known how to come out of enemy mode with my husband/family/friends/etc so I could not share with you how to come out of enemy mode and see another as an ally. Enemy mode is a nasty trick our brains plays on us when it feels someone is not on our side. My friend and author of the book, The Other Half of the Brain, Michel Hendriks defines enemy mode as “In Simple Enemy Mode, all our relational circuits have shut down and we want to people and problems to go away. We do not listen well to others, and our minds are locked on to our problems. We want to get away from a person, even if we love the person. In conflict, we will argue aggressively and will be quick to judge. We all lapse into Simple Enemy Mode from time to time.” What does enemy mode look like in relationship- you are not curious instead you are assuming where someone is coming from, blaming, shaming, rejecting, abandoning, dismissing, withdrawing, calling another bad or scary, hiding, and you just want this person to go away or you go away.

I grew up in a family where we all went to enemy mode with each other. We fought, yelled, hit, ignored or dismissed. There was no listening, no honor, no curiosity. Enemy mode was how we interacted with each other, it was generational so no one was able to teach us as children how to learn to love each other when our brains were in enemy mode. Is this true for you? Or was your experience a passive form of enemy mode where you withdrew, made the person scary and bad, didn’t talk about it but kept that person in, “you are bad and scary and I can’t talk to you,” not able to see the person as God sees them? So there is the attack form of enemy mode like my home of origin or the withdraw form where we don’t talk about anything and fall into enemy mode of withdraw, you will hurt me. Attack and withdraw impulses as Dallas Willard says “demonstrate a lack of love and Christlike character.” (Renovated p. 84) Both attack and withdraw are a form of enemy mode and need to find a way to a relational brain.

I am going to get really real right now. We can move as a country divided and more toward enemy mode or we can repent and go different way. A friend from our hesed growing group shared this with me, I couldn’t agree more especially as I have failed at listening well. “We as White people need to listen well to Black people so our brains do not take sides. When people don't listen the brain starts acting like it is dealing with enemies. God is not on either side rather we are to all get on God's side.” If I can’t listen to my husband, family, friend, neighbor then I most likely can’t listen to what the Black Community needs me to hear and really listen. My motto is if I can’t do it at home, I can’t do it authentically outside of my home.

So how do we do this, what would God’s side look like. Here is what Jim Wilder teaches in Renovated-

“Learning to love enemies is learned from a people who love enemies. Here are the requirements:

  1. Someone who feels like my enemy right now. (2) A teacher who is attached by love to my enemy. This teacher (a) sees these “enemies” as “my people” and (b) knows that “my people” love our enemies. (3) A love attachment with my teacher. (4) A mutual-mind moment with my teacher while I am in enemy mode, where I can experience attachment that lets enemies become “our people.” (5) Repeated practice attaching to enemies in the company of “my people” because that is the kind of people we are. With practice, it becomes harder and harder to fall into enemy mode. Fewer and fewer people feel like my enemies. A spontaneous attachment produces the desire for enemies to know what God and God’s people know about hesed love. I develop both emotional and spiritual maturity.”(p.85)

My first step toward learning & going a different way is for me to practice coming out of enemy mode. When I go to enemy mode, I can’t see or hear you or anyone, my brain is in lock down and it is saying- this is bad and scary, prepare to fight, flight or freeze. I feel shame, a good healthy shame, when I admit this to you. But as I practice coming out of enemy mode daily, I am learning to attach and be with you. I am learning what Jim shows us above, a new way, would you like to join me on this new way?