“My father taught me many things here. He taught me in this room. He taught me, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
Just about everyone who hasn’t been hiding out in a cave the past forty years is familiar with this chilling line from The Godfather, Part II. When Michael Corleone, in his quest to find out who the traitor in his family is (which turns out to be his brother Fredo), is giving instructions to one of his lieutenants, he chillingly says to him: “My father taught me many things here. He taught me in this room. He taught me, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
I had really never thought about the idea of keeping your enemies close until I first heard this line in Mario Puzo’s classic film. Since then, however, I’ve given it a lot of thought and still find myself a bit conflicted by the advice Don Vito Corleone (Michael’s father, Marlon Brando) handed down to him.
When someone has an axe to grind with you, I can see where it might be a good idea to keep him in close proximity rather than having him running around loose trying to cause you grief. On the other hand, people who have a tendency to get mad and carry grudges are often neurotic, and one of my firm rules in life — which I talk about extensively in Looking Out for #1 — is to stay as far away from neurotics as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of their wasting too much of your time by luring you into mud wrestling with them.
So I guess where I come down on the subject is that I can see why a Mafioso, who lives in a world where murder is always on the table, would want to keep his potential assassins close so he knows where they are and what they’re up to at all times. But in normal, day-to-day life, I still think it makes a lot more sense to keep those who are intent on causing you trouble as far away as possible. Life really is awfully short.
Either way, here’s that never-to-be-forgotten, Hall of Fame line from The Godfather, Part II: