I wish I didn’t understand hate, but I do. I hate things a lot. Waking up before I’m ready. The sound of gum-chewing. Little Drummer Boy. Hangovers. Pants.
Sometimes I even think I hate people. Sometimes the idea of going out and facing the loud world makes me quote Liz Lemon – “people are the worst” – and listen to Get Set Go on repeat. But that’s not really hate, that’s annoyance, often brought upon myself by gum chewing, pants, hangovers, etc. On days like that I’m so unpleasant I think other people have more of a right to hate me than the other way around. But the perfect strangers who are the victims of my mean stares, eye rolls, and silently composed insults move on, and I forget about them, and we don’t bother one another anymore. Maybe that’s not really hate, but it’s not really nice, either.
I thought I hated a person or two in high school, and maybe I did. Maybe I wasn’t very nice, because they weren’t very nice to me. Nothing unique about that story. It doesn’t bring up any darkness to think about them anymore; doesn’t make me imagine insults I wish I’d been brave enough to say out loud. Doesn’t make me wish ill things upon them. Doesn’t make me want to go out for cocktails together, either, but if I saw them in a bar I wouldn’t throw the same cocktail in their faces. So if it was hate, it too has passed with time.
I know hate does me no good. I know it hurts everyone it touches. And I believe fighting hate with hate is the most dangerous concept out there. And yet I’m still so, so much better at understanding hate than forgiveness.
When I hear about a drunk driver taking an innocent’s life, I do not feel forgiving. When another act of senseless violence is on the news, I do not feel forgiving. When I hear unkind words, even if they are not directed at me, even if they are said without malicious intent, I do not feel forgiving. Sometimes I’ll feel it later, but never immediately; I’m in awe of anyone who can do that. What to do, then, in the moment when the wounds are fresh?
It seems like everywhere I look these days, I’m seeing hate responding to hate. I could be good at that. I could get in an argument and hurl insults with the best of them. I can be snarky on purpose and cruel by accident. But why? what good does that do me, and more importantly, what good does it do the world?
So this is what I’m trying to do: shut up. For a little while, anyway – long enough to remember that no matter what side of an issue I’m on, I want to stand for love, not hate. Long enough to think, does this argument need my negative words, or does it need my positive actions? Long enough to find out if I need to forgive, and how to do it.
I’m not saying I don’t want to stand up for what I believe in. If I need to add my voice to something, I will, but I want to do it in a way that does not hurt myself or others. No matter what I believe, I have no right to attack someone who sees things differently. No matter what they believe, I have no right to wish them any ill. To put it simply: I want to do more good, say less bad.
I have a fondness for Saint Francis of Assisi, even though he is often shown surrounded by birds and rabbits (two other things I come close to hating, but that’s for another therapy session). I like this quote, most often attributed to him: “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.” Whether or not you’re Catholic, it’s a good mantra, if you believe (as I do) that “Preaching the Gospel” means love.
There are a lot of good mantras that remind me to close my mouth and move my feet. Like this one, from the only rabbit I kind of tolerate: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”