Growing up I learned that my so-called enemies were not always my enemy. And who I thought were my enemies were not always my enemy. In prison I hear the word “enemy” being used all the time. And some of them talk about the old advice: Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer. I know they’re talking about pretending to be a friend so you can keep one step ahead, but for me it doesn’t work like that.
Because if I keep my enemy close to me for a long time, that person would no longer be my enemy, he would become my best friend.
When I keep someone close to me, I would come to love and respect him. I would learn with him. And I would learn from him. I would teach him, and share all my experience with him. I would be there for them no matter what. I would grow with them. And I would grow for them. I would be loyal to them. So, close, they would not be my enemy, they would be a friend to me.
When I was young, my mother, Marilyn, always used to tell me, “Son, you are your own worst enemy.” And I would just look at her like she was crazy. But now I can see how much harm I brought into my own life. I read my Bible whenever I can, and the Bible says “Love your enemy as you love yourself.” First I have to love myself, respect myself, honor myself. Then I can begin to love my enemies.
And what’s happened? Most of the people I thought were my enemies, they are the ones who want to help me and care for me. That’s something strange to me. That when all is said and done, my enemies had love for me, even when it did not seem that way at first.
Michael McKinney is a prisoner in Florida serving a sentence of Life Without Parole.