When I was 5 I told my mother I hated two things: My babysitter and eggplants. I hated eggplant because apparently no one had informed my taste buds that they were italian and therefore supposed to love eggplant parm. I hated my babysitter because she once chased me with a tennis racket into my room so she could make out with her boyfriend on the couch. My mother fired the babysitter and didn’t make me eat eggplant anymore, but she cautioned me about using that word, telling me ‘You don’t hate people’.
Fast forward 23 years later and I am still learning the meaning of that simple lesson. I openly hate a lot of things : black socks, hair on soap, GMOs, parking in my boyfriends neighbourhood, the word ‘schnitzel’, clamshell packaging, the list could go on and on. I try and try to be mindful of not feeling hate towards people, but I fail really miserably sometimes. Every time I end up strongly disliking someone I always hear an old Nada Surf song in my head and sometimes I sing it to myself :
“To make a mountain of your life is just a choice
But I never learned enough to listen to the voice that told me
Always love, hate will get you every time
Always love, don’t wait til the finish line…..”
Last week I found myself in a room with a person that would likely be near the top of my list of people I disliked the most. He had made my professional and personal life very difficult in the past and we harboured a lot of resentment towards each other that we didn’t exactly hide. I was with mutual friends and our interaction was inevitable. He opened with ‘Look, I know you hate me, but……’ I let him finish, but didn’t feel good about it. No matter what went on, no matter how much I disliked what this person had done, I wasn’t okay with anyone thinking I hated them. Eventually I told him I didn’t hate him, explained my frustration with him and treated him like a human being instead of writing him off as a jerk. You know, the stuff I should have done in the first place. And when I accepted that this guy wasn’t some monster and had an honest conversation with him, something very good and very predictable happened. I saw him for what he was: Just a screwed up dude that was just trying to get by. Someone who deserved things like compassion and understanding from me, the opposite of hate.
I didn’t fully heed my mothers lesson when she first said it, and I didn’t understand the full weight of lyrics of this song the first time I heard it 8 years ago. Hate in your heart towards anyone is still hate in YOUR heart. I’m not gonna get all chakra balancing wishy washy on you here, but I think we all know that hate is some toxic sh*t. It still poisons you in some way and eventually finds its way into everything you do. It’s the hardest thing in the world, but you gotta forgive people who have hurt you. Forgive them, even if they are not sorry. In a letter written shortly before his death, one that still makes me tear up when I read it, Jack Layton wrote “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world”.
I’m not suggesting you go out in the world today and personify an inspirational facebook quote and make a date to cook dinner for the person who slept with your ex-boyfriend. I probably didn’t change the world because I had a difficult conversation and forgave one person. But I changed my own world in doing so, and that’s really all any of us can do. All I’m asking of you today is to listen to this song. The song that reminds me to be a bigger person, a better person than I was yesterday. Maybe this extraordinary song will have the same effect on you, maybe it will remind you to approach your life with benevolence, with empathy and with love, always.