When we dislike people, schadenfreude might be the most positive feeling we have for them, and can often lead to actively rooting against them. Their failure validates our feelings while also making us smugly superior, and when they don’t fail, we feel a vague sense of disappointment.
A few nights ago, I was watching a recital. I wanted the recital to go well of course, but I also disliked one of the performers. I caught myself anticipating any flaws in her performance like a dog salivating for a treat, but then I realized that her success or failure had nothing to do with our relationship. I could continue to dislike her while respecting her skill as a musician -- and she is quite skilled -- and appreciate certain elements of her character while having no regard for other parts of it. So, as I sat and listened, I let go of my feelings toward her and opened myself to enjoy what she was doing; and frankly, she rocked it.
After the concert, I had the decision of telling her how good her performance was or of just going home. I wanted to congratulate the star of the recital anyway, so I went backstage. I hesitated, but then extended my hand and for moment let my dislike fall away, allowing me to sincerely say that she had played very well.
That interaction was freeing. I was able to let go of my grudge and honestly wish the best for someone, separating their personality from the work they did. If I am able to more freely root for other people, it will be easier for me to be genuinely happy for their successes and help lead them to more successes.
Instead of trying to hold people we dislike back, we should try to propel them forward, giving us more motivation to work on our skills so as not to feel inferior. We will always feel competitive toward them, so let's use that to our advantage as fully as we possibly can.
Cheer for your enemies and even harder for your friends.