Keep your friends close and your enemies closer
The World English Bible translates the passage as: But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, The Novum Testamentum Graece text is: ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν.
It’s not too often that Sun Tzu, the brilliant Chinese military strategist, and Al Pacino of “The Godfather” give the same wise business advice: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
In other words, follow not only what your business partners are doing, but what your competitors are involved in as well.
The most common scorecard that most businesses use is financially beating their competition. However, sometimes working together with a competitor is actually the best way to achieve a common business goal.
Adam Brandenburger called this “co-optition”.
Bill Gates refers to it as “sometimes the lambs have to lie down with the wolves.” Most businesses practice some form of cooperation with their competitors. One company winning doesn’t mean that its competitor always loses. Conversely, when a company fails, it doesn’t mean that they totally lose.
In the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” Nobel Prize winner, John Nash educated people on the game theory where “rational decision-makers” are involved in a mix of conflict and cooperation with their competitors.
The most extreme version of cooperation is where an entire industry gets together to solve industry-level problems. This model has been very popular in Japan.
A famous example of “co-optiton” was when Microsoft and Apple worked closely together in the early years of both computer businesses. While it has been described as a love-hate relationship, a $150M investment by Microsoft in Apple in 1997 actually saved that company. (It also was an incredibly profitable investment for Microsoft.)
In the technology area, cooperation among competitors happens frequently because of the price of technological advancement. A recent example is where electric car manufacturers all have the same charging port standards, so a common charging infrastructure can be used by all vehicles. Unfortunately, extreme cooperation among competitors can also lead to an antitrust lawsuit by the federal government.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer Meaning
to keep a keen eye on enemies beyond what one might have on their friends. to be vigilant about the actions taken by enemies.
We strive to keep friends close in order to enrich our lives. We’re also inclined to appraise our interpersonal bonds with consideration for the degree of “closeness” we share with one another.
For these reasons, most would instinctively assume that a friend ought to be kept closer than an enemy, and this notion is only strengthened by our natural inclination to move away from unpleasantness towards the pleasant.
This particular idiom is intended to make you think, and it achieves this by creating discord with your expectations and beliefs. At first, the thought of keeping an enemy closer than a friend—or close at all for that matter—sounds preposterous, and this compels you to ponder the idea.
Now, why would you keep an enemy closer than a friend? Generally speaking, knowledge. The closer an enemy is to you, the more intimately you will come to know their capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, etc.
You can use this knowledge to your advantage. A close enemy is also one you’re privy to the whereabouts of, so you’re much less likely to be caught off-guard.
At another level, an enemy has much—if not more—to teach you about yourself. Superficially, your own capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies will emerge more prominently in the presence of an enemy, and this serves as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Even deeper, you can learn from the very animosity and opposition which exists between you and your enemy. We can choose to reflect upon why we are enemies with the person in the first place—does it all boil down to a misunderstanding?
Am I prejudiced? Not only can we benefit by having our beliefs and capabilities challenged by the opposition, but as we develop our understanding of an enemy, we may experience a shift in our regard for them. We may begin to view an enemy with less antagonism, and perhaps in time even come to know them as a friend.
2 Samuel 9 – Keep Your Friends Close – Enemies Closer
Love your brother, your neighbor, your potential enemy… There’s an old saying keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Out of the blue, David starts asking if anyone of the house of Saul has survived. He’d like to do them some kindness, for the sake of Jonathan. Jonathan’s crippled son, Mephibosheth, is brought to David, by a former servant of Saul. And… David is extremely kind, giving him all that had formerly belonged to his grandfather, including the former servant of Saul to work the land. David will ensure that Mephibosheth is cared for all the days of his life.
So why do I question David’s motives by implying that this chapter is about keeping our enemies close? There is nothing particular in this chapter that implies it – except that – the servant Ziba was Saul’s servant. Except that – Mephibosheth is the grandson of the former king, who for years had pursued David and wanted his death.
Yes, Jonathan loved David. But, this is Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson. Who can say where Mephibosheth’s loyalties will lie? What about Ziba’s loyalties? And… if they are not with David, maybe David will win them over with his generosity and kindness. It is good to keep those who are potential enemies close beside you so that you will know what they are doing. Strategies… of politics and war.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer… Be kind to each of them.
Proverbs 25:21-22 (generally credited to be written by David’s son, Solomon) reflects this negative or defensive thinking of mine:
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.”
And who can tell, by your kindness, just maybe your enemy will become your true friend.
And Jesus told us to: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)