“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. What a baffling sentiment. Imagine having a party where the only people you’ve invited are your worst enemies. Why would anyone do that?
Well, it turns out there are quite a few reasons and we’re going to break them down for you.
Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer – Meaning
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is a phrase that warns you to pay attention to the actions of your enemies in case they move against you. It can also advocate for treating your enemies kindly so that they don’t realize they are your enemies.
If you treat your enemy as though they are your friend, you can lure them into a false sense of security before you launch your evil attack.
We presume you have some sort of evil attack planned.
If you make an effort to pay attention to your enemy, rather than ignoring them because they’re smelly and boring and you hate them, then you will notice changes in their behavior and be able to spot when they’re about to launch an evil attack on you.
They definitely have one planned.
It can also mean working with your enemies so that they are no longer your enemy. For example, in business, two companies that are close competitors might merge to become a mega-company and create new enemies together. So cute.
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” also alludes to the sad fact that betrayals often come from the people we believe to be closest to us. Statistically, you’re much more likely to be killed by someone you know than by a stranger.
Keep that cheerful fact in mind at your next family dinner.
Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer – Origin
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is a line frequently misattributed to the famous military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu. He came up with a lot of slogans, but this isn’t one of them.
This quote actually comes from The Godfather Part II, which was written by Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1974.
It was the character Michael Corleone who said:
- My father taught me many things here – he taught me in this room. He taught me – keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer – Similar Quotes
Now let’s look at some quotes that are similar to “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”:
- Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
This quote actually is from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It advocates for gaining an intimate understanding of your enemy so that you know how to defeat them.
- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
This one is from the Bible and probably isn’t about trying to get the edge on your enemies. It’s more about being forgiving. How lame.
Phrases That Mean the Opposite of “Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer”
Some people have taken opposition to the message of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” and decided to create their own versions of the phrase instead:
- Keep your friends close and your enemies dead and buried in the basement.
This play on the original is by author Mark Frost. He advocates for an efficient method of dealing with interpersonal conflicts. We don’t support this, by the way.
- I don’t like the saying keep your friends close and enemies closer. I want my enemy on a different planet.
Comedian Wanda Sykes isn’t a fan of the original saying either. If you can find a way to send your enemy to another planet, then we’re okay with that.
Correct Ways to Say “Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer”
Let’s look at some common variations of the phrase “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”:
- Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
- Keep your friends close and enemies closer.
- Keep your friends close but enemies closer.
Incorrect Ways to Use “Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer”
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” isn’t about physical proximity. It doesn’t mean that you need to be hugging your enemies. Although, that might be helpful if you’re trying to convince them that they’re not your enemy.
It’s about emotional closeness and mental closeness; maintaining a connection to your enemy and paying close attention to what they’re doing.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.