Forgiving Hate

A few years ago, my family and I attended a wedding of someone we feel very close to and love deeply. The young bride has been an important part of our lives for many years of her childhood and teen years. We have always tried to keep in touch with her – through her years in university, travels, and law school – and our family has countless wonderful memories of the times she and her sister spent with us.

The setting for her wedding was lovely – an outdoor terrace over-looking the beautiful city skyline, decorated with gorgeous, unique flower arrangements in oranges, white, and green. I’ve always associated these colors with the city of San Diego. Our bride radiated graceful happiness and beauty. The groom looked proud and relaxed, and very happy. I watched the large crowd of friends and family as they assembled on the terrace, and was especially moved by the happiness and love so evident on everyone’s faces. We settled in and the ceremony began. The processional was elegant and deeply moving. The vows exchanged were charming, filled with love and humor, and filled with the beauty of promise and commitment. I heard very quiet murmurs of appreciation of the vows and what they pledged for a lifetime. I thought about the vows my spouse and I made many years ago. Overall, the ceremony was memorable.

After the ceremony and congratulations, the three of us left the crowd and headed back to our hotel. We were quiet as we walked along the waterfront – all of us slightly unnerved by the address the officient gave. His talk began in a thoughtful manner but soon over-emphasized the amount of patience required by marriage. I heard a few snickers from the people in the rows behind me. From there his oration devolved into an uncomfortable complaint about the people he detests. My daughter and I looked at each other in confusion. Someone behind us uttered an almost inaudible “What?” under their breath. My spouse shifted in his seat and looked away, out over the water. On and on continued the complaint about those the officient detests as if he was settling a score. Eventually he explained that those people he detests he actually loves because of Agape. The people behind us murmured with a disquieted tone.

At dinner much later that evening, my daughter said, “That doesn’t speak highly of marriage”. I agreed. I asked my spouse for his thoughts and he said, “Well, that’s him”. But most of all, we agreed that talking about the people one detests in a wedding ceremony was self-centered, self-serving and inappropriate. I have never heard an officient talk about hate or detesting people in a wedding ceremony. We felt bad for the couple, and hoped that that part of their wedding ceremony would be forgotten. In our minds, to use a wedding ceremony to settle a score is unfair and cowardly.

The most important aspect I have learned in my marriage is of forgiveness – of my spouse and myself. We make mistakes. All humans make mistakes. It is in our nature. What is important to remember in a marriage, in fact in most relationships, is that sometimes how we feel should be kept to ourself. There will always be someone we dislike, someone we struggle to forgive. But to use a public event dedicated to a young couple’s future to air ones’ grievances that have nothing to do with that couple is simply awful.

I don’t think I have ever hated anyone in my life. I have encountered people I don’t trust, people I don’t respect, and folks I really don’t like, but I’ve never reached the level of hate. But if I ever do reach that point, I hope I will have the self-control to keep it to myself. Self-control is something our country has been short on for the past four years. Many people have been hurt by hate, many people have been afraid for themselves, family, or friends because of hate. Hate always harms not only the recipient but also the dispatcher of hate. The energy required to hate overwhelms all involved. And it is a profound waste of energy. What I would say to anyone who genuinely hates someone is this: be kind to yourself, save your energy and look for something positive, one good quality, in the object of your hate. You may be surprised at the results.

And – you will feel better!

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