one that is antagonistic to another; especially: one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent
something harmful or deadly <alcohol was his greatest enemy>
a: a military adversary b: a hostile unit or force
Too often, people and the media exaggerate conflict, presenting a friendly conflict as a war, turning competitors into enemies. They want us to believe that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are enemies, that Coke and Pepsi want to destroy each other, and that Walt Disney World and Universal Studios should want the other to fail. The reality is that Brady and Manning pushed each other to become better players. The rivalry between Coke and Pepsi has forced each to create new products, innovate marketing and packaging, and compete for sponsorships. The Disney/Universal rivalry results in a better experience because their competition forces the building of new attractions and a constant focus on improving customer service. There may be some trash talk between people in these organizations, but no one actually wants harm to come to their opponents.
I am competing with Chuck Fleischmann for his Congressional seat. I hope that my campaign, at the least, causes him to think about the issues and, assuming he wins, becomes a better Representative. I don’t want to destroy him. I don’t want the destruction of the Republican and Democratic parties, but I would like them to be more responsive to the needs of the country. I want to compete with Fleischmann and, hopefully, the parties, to force everyone, including myself, to do better.
Too many people are treating competitors as enemies. Republicans talk about Obama like he is the Antichrist, while Democrats talk about Republicans only being interested in the rich and big business. Liberals regularly compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, while Trump incites his supporters to violently remove protesters. Christian and Muslim rhetoric is often terribly violent. Too many people are really angry–often, unfortunately, including myself–but that’s the wrong emotion, I think.
I have a friend who is very well-educated but with whom I disagree very often. We can look at the exact same facts and come to diametrically opposed conclusions. This isn’t because we don’t understand the facts–in fact, I’m quite confident that he understands the facts at least as well as I do–but rather, we have completely different world views. Our differences come from how the new data fits into our existing paradigms. We have some very spirited discussions, but I’ve never felt like he’s my enemy. He’s a friendly competitor, and our debates have led both of us, I think, to refine our positions and to develop deeper understandings. Sometimes we even find common ground.
I had a professor who once told me that there is nothing more motivating than a competent enemy. While true, it isn’t something I want. I’d much rather be motivated by a competent competitor. After the debate, we go out to the pub and throw down a couple of beers, not out into the alley to throw a few punches.
A little respect goes a long way.