If Your Enemy is Hungry Feed Him


In a world often driven by conflict and retribution, the notion of feeding one’s enemy may seem counterintuitive. However, this age-old wisdom, rooted in various spiritual and philosophical traditions, offers a profound perspective on the transformative power of compassion. By extending kindness and nourishment to those we consider adversaries, we have the opportunity to transcend the cycle of enmity and foster understanding.

          The Benefits of Feeding Your Enemy

Disarming Hostility

Conflict, by its very nature, breeds hostility. When we find ourselves at odds with another person or group, our instinct is often to respond in kind – to meet aggression with aggression, to retaliate against perceived slights. This cycle of hostility, however, seldom leads to a resolution or lasting peace. Instead, it tends to escalate tensions, driving the parties further apart and making reconciliation all the more difficult.

But there is another way. When we offer sustenance to someone who opposes us, we disrupt the natural inclination to retaliate. This gesture of goodwill can disarm the tension and create an opening for dialogue, allowing both parties to approach the conflict with more openness and empathy.

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20).

 The imagery of “burning coals” suggests that this act of kindness can melt the hardness of the heart, softening the other person’s stance and making them more receptive to reconciliation. Of course, this is not an easy thing to do. It requires us to overcome our own feelings of anger, resentment, and the desire for retribution. It means setting aside our ego and our need to be “right,” and instead focusing on the greater good of restoring relationship and finding common ground.

But the rewards can be profound. When we are able to approach a conflict with this spirit of generosity and openness, it opens the door for deeper understanding and the possibility of lasting peace. The other person may be caught off guard by our unexpected kindness, and in that moment, they may be more willing to listen and to let down their guard.

Disarming hostility is not about winning or losing, but about finding a way forward that benefits everyone involved. It is a recognition that we are all part of the human family, and that our well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of those around us. By offering sustenance to our adversaries, we take a step towards a more just, compassionate, and connected world.

Promoting Understanding

Food is a universal language that often bridges cultural and ideological divides. By sharing a meal, we create a shared experience that can foster mutual understanding and humanize the “other.” This can lay the groundwork for finding common ground and resolving conflicts.

Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46).

In this passage, we see the early Christian community coming together, sharing meals, and finding common ground despite their differences. When we sit down to eat with someone, we are no longer just adversaries or strangers – we are fellow human beings, sharing in the basic sustenance that sustains us all. This shared experience can soften our hearts, making us more open to listening and understanding the other person’s perspective.

Moreover, the act of preparing and sharing food can be a powerful act of hospitality and generosity, signaling to the other person that we see them as a valued member of the human family. This gesture of goodwill can disarm tensions and create an environment where difficult conversations become more possible.

This is not a panacea for all conflicts. Deep-seated differences and strongly held beliefs can still present significant obstacles to understanding and reconciliation. But by using food as a bridge, we can at least create the conditions for a more constructive dialogue, where both parties feel heard and respected.

In a world that is often divided and contentious, the simple act of sharing a meal can be a powerful tool for promoting understanding and building connections across lines of difference. It is a reminder that, at our core, we are all part of the same human family, and that our well-being is ultimately intertwined.

Transforming Perspectives

The act of feeding one’s enemy challenges our preconceived notions and forces us to reconsider our stance. It invites us to step outside our own biases and view the situation from a different angle, potentially leading to a more nuanced and compassionate understanding of the conflict.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

This radical call to love and care for our adversaries is a testament to the transformative power of compassion.

When we offer sustenance to someone who opposes us, we are engaging in an act that disrupts the natural inclination to retaliate. This gesture of goodwill can disarm the tension and create an opening for dialogue, allowing both parties to approach the conflict with more openness and empathy.

By stepping outside of our own entrenched perspectives, we can begin to see the humanity in the other person. We may come to realize that our “enemy” is not a caricature or an abstraction, but a fellow human being with their own hopes, fears, and struggles. This realization can foster a sense of shared experience and common ground, even in the midst of deep-seated differences.

Moreover, the act of feeding one’s enemy can serve as a powerful symbol of humility and a willingness to reach across the divide. It communicates a message of vulnerability and a desire for reconciliation, which can inspire the other person to respond in kind, paving the way for a more constructive dialogue.

This is no easy task. Overcoming our own biases and letting go of our need to be “right” requires immense courage and a deep commitment to the principles of compassion and nonviolence. But the rewards can be profound, as we discover new avenues for understanding and collaboration that were previously obscured by our own narrow perspectives.

Personal Growth: Extending Kindness to Adversaries

Extending kindness to our adversaries can be a profound act of personal growth. It requires us to confront our own fears, prejudices, and the desire for retaliation, ultimately leading to a deeper sense of self-awareness and emotional maturity.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

This verse speaks to the transformative power of choosing compassion over retaliation, even in the face of hostility. When we are confronted with someone who opposes us, our natural inclination is often to fight back or withdraw. We may lash out in anger, or we may simply disengage and distance ourselves from the conflict. But by doing so, we risk perpetuating a cycle of hostility that can be difficult to break.

Instead, we are called to respond with kindness and understanding. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree with the other person or condone their actions. Rather, it means that we strive to see them as a fellow human being, worthy of dignity and respect, even if their beliefs or behaviors are at odds with our own.

Extending this kind of compassion requires us to confront our own biases and preconceptions. We may need to challenge our own deeply held assumptions about the “other” and be willing to step outside of our comfort zones. This can be profoundly uncomfortable, as it forces us to confront our own fears and insecurities.

But in doing so, we open ourselves up to a profound opportunity for personal growth. By letting go of our need to be “right” and our desire for retribution, we can cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness and emotional maturity. We may discover hidden reserves of empathy and understanding within ourselves, and we may find that our ability to navigate conflict and build bridges between disparate groups is greatly enhanced.

Moreover, the act of extending kindness to our adversaries can have a ripple effect, inspiring others to do the same. When we model this kind of compassionate behavior, we create the conditions for a more just, peaceful, and connected world – one in which the impulse to retaliate is replaced by a genuine desire for understanding and reconciliation.

This is not an easy task. It requires a deep well of courage, patience, and a willingness to confront our own limitations. But in doing so, we have the opportunity to become the best version of ourselves – not just for the sake of our adversaries, but for our own personal growth and the betterment of our shared humanity.

 Practical Applications and Considerations

While the concept of feeding one’s enemy may sound idealistic, it can be applied in various contexts, both personal and global. In interpersonal conflicts, this approach can help diffuse tensions and pave the way for reconciliation. In geopolitical or societal conflicts, it can be a powerful symbolic gesture that sets an example of empathy and conflict resolution.

However, it’s important to consider the nuances and potential risks involved. Feeding an enemy should not be seen as a means of manipulation or coercion, but rather a sincere expression of compassion. It’s essential to approach this act with authenticity and a genuine desire for understanding, rather than expecting immediate results or a specific outcome.

In personal relationships, offering food to someone who has wronged us can be a way to break down barriers, develop open communication, and find common ground. It may not resolve the conflict immediately, but it can create a space for more constructive dialogue. It’s important to be mindful of the other person’s emotional state and to proceed with caution, as the gesture could be misinterpreted or rejected.

On a larger scale, extending kindness and sustenance to adversaries in geopolitical or societal conflicts can be a powerful symbolic act that challenges the traditional us-versus-them mentality. It can inspire others to follow suit, slowly shifting the narrative from one of hostility to one of understanding and cooperation. However, it’s important to consider the cultural and political context, as well as the potential risks and unintended consequences that could arise from such actions.

Feeding one’s enemy is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a nuanced approach that requires careful consideration, empathy, and a commitment to long-term, sustainable change. By approaching this concept with wisdom, humility, and a dedication to the principles of nonviolence, we can unlock its transformative potential and contribute to a more just, peaceful, and connected world.

Read also: Can the holy spirit leave a believer?


In a world often beset by division and animosity, the act of feeding one’s enemy stands as a poignant reminder of our shared humanity. By embracing this principle, we can transcend the boundaries of “us” and “them,” and cultivate a more just, peaceful, and compassionate global society. While it may not be an easy path, the rewards of this transformative act can be immeasurable, both for the individual and for the collective. As we navigate the complexities of our world, may we find the courage and wisdom to nourish not only our bodies, but also the hearts and minds of those we once considered adversaries.

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