Over the last 3–4 years, I’ve reached levels of anger and sadness that I didn’t know I could feel at this stage of my life. I’ve said to myself that I need to be careful about who I let wipe their muddy feet into my life.
Fortunately, I’ve come to the realisation that everyone’s gone outside and as a result, everyone’s tracking dirt that I’ll have to sweep up. I’ve also realised that I too track dirt into other people’s lives.
But to what extent are we muddying the lives of our friends and family? We don’t know. And sometimes people are polite and want to spare your feelings, so they don’t tell you. And yet, there are times when it spills out and that searing water burns everyone nearby, a time when your judgment rains down on the people who have done wrong in your eyes, which may include your loved ones.
But if you’re lucky (or cursed), one day you will stop judging others. You will stop judging others when you watch yourself doing something deceitful and you don’t stop yourself. You will stop judging others when you are guilty of the same thing you actively vilify people for. You will stop judging others when you hear the other side of the story and their story is the same as yours.
And perhaps the saddest part of this is that while you might stop, you might forget what you learnt. And then, you resume your judgment until you remember why you gave it up in the first place.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been here. Holding our righteous indignation like a torch in a dark cave of immorality. We’re ready to burn the abuser alive when they’re just a product of their environment. They learnt coping mechanisms to survive as a child and now they have to abdicate rehearsed and rewarded patterns of behaviour as an adult because they threaten to destroy relationships.
We want to punish because we hate. We don’t want to rehabilitate because that would mean being remotely loving and investing time and resources into the wrong-doer.
Hating is our birthright and we love to feel superior to others, even when it causes us to feel really bad when people don’t live up to the standards we have for them.
But it is especially bad when we don’t live up to the standards we’ve set for ourselves. It’s good to have high standards as something to ascribe to but when we fail to meet them, we feel slathered in shame. It’s a double-edged sword. Solution? Realise that it’s enough to simply live your values. It makes absolutely no sense not to and you remove the stain of shame when you fail. Not if. When.
And it isn’t that we simply have to hate the “proper” things to hate, like racism and bigotry and the New England Patriots. Hate is hate, and I do remember Martin Luther King Jr. saying that “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Finally, we have to realise that the hate I send to you is a hate I have for myself. You can’t judge someone for something bad and when you’re guilty of the same thing, you don’t feel shamed too. Well, unless you suppress it. Then it lives in your shadow and everyone can see your dastardly deeds, except you. It isn’t fun and that’s an even harsher reality check.
So instead, love yourself enough to love others, but hold people accountable for their actions. It will take bravery as people will hate you for not participating in hate, but if it was good enough for MLK Jr. it’s good enough for me.