I got called out this week by someone who knows me well and reads what I write on a regular basis. It wasn’t particularly comfortable.
“Why’d you use that word?” the conversation began.
“What word?” I asked in return.
“You used the word ‘hate’ to describe how you felt about something. I’ve never seen you do that.”
“Please,” I said, “You’ve known me long enough to know I have strong opinions about things. I’m sure you’ve heard me use that word before. I’m sure I’ve expressed it in writing before.”
“I don’t think so,” was the quiet response, “And I don’t like that word.”
I brushed it off initially. Chalked it up to a difference of opinion and let it go.
And then last night I had dinner with a colleague that, in part, included conversation about the things we’ve seen in our lifetimes that are rooted in fear, mistrust, judgment, terror…hate.
Real hate. The kind that begets evil and propagates brokenness.
Baltimore is burning.
Those girls that we swore we’d “bring back” are still, over a year later, nowhere to be found and Boko Haram rages.
“The media,” such as it is in these United States as of late, seems to think commenting on the hairstyle, clothing and general appearance of a possible POTUS candidate can pass for journalism–if said candidate was male, they’d never get away with it. But she’s not. And so they do.
Less than 20 miles from my front door an HIV epidemic rages as a result of intravenous drug use. Addiction is a powerful thing and it preys on the very things people use it to escape from–self-hatred, fear, anxiety, hopelessness.
Oh, and the email I got from Groupon this morning? Heavily discounted “Conceal Carry” classes at a local gun range. As I have said before, keep your deer rifles people, and by all means, if target practice or throwing clay pigeons or duck-hunting is an enjoyable form of recreation for you, have at it. Really. But if we’re all going to start carrying around machines designed solely to kill another human being in our purses and briefcases, then honestly, I do not know what is to become of us.
And families are broken. And heartache and isolation are real. And we’re still fighting over who can express their love for who in this country.
Hate is real. And the ways it gets in our collective soul and breeds minions of despair and violence ought to be enough to teach us we’ve got to find a better way. But we seem to be slow to learn this.
Real slow. Like, make Jesus throw back a shot of tequila and groan, “Seriously, y’all?!?” slow.
And so maybe I just indicate I “strongly dislike,” something. Maybe I don’t toss around a word as loaded as “hate” with such haste. Maybe I remind myself that who/what I “strongly dislike” is who/what another person may well fiercely love. And respecting that? Making room for those differences? Allowing space in our hearts for someone else’s life story?
That is where real change begins to happen. That is where real hope is made possible.
PS–I “strongly dislike” beets, oysters, Pearl Jam, Rush Limbaugh, most reality TV, the month of August, mosquitoes and frogs.