Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The opposite of love is not hate

Jasmyn said to me about a week ago, "I've been thinking.  When we have enemies, we actually are a lot closer to them than people we don't care about at all."  Yes, I responded, that's why the opposite of love is not hate but apathy.  But she went on.  She was thinking about the Harry Potter series in particular. And she said that when Voldemort died, Harry must have "missed" him at some level. He'd spent 7 years of his life thinking about him, fighting him, working to defeat him. Seven years of "relationship" even if that relationship was one of animosity or hatred.  She went on, "Harry was closer to Voldemort, to Snape, to Malfoy even, than he was to Professor Flitwick or any of those other folk whose names we heard just in passing.  He was more involved with those people he didn't like than he ever was to folk he had casual relationships with."

I've found myself reflecting on this ever since she mentioned it.  It's true that thoughts go out to people with whom there is some kind of... well, negativity, either in the past or in the present. I went to a Presbytery meeting here in San Francisco for the first time since I'd left. Probably it was the first meeting I'd been to here in seven years. And I saw there a woman who doesn't like me. We were at Seminary together, so I've had an acquaintance with her for about twenty years. Not everyone is going to like me. I get that. And she never has. Not everyone is going to like anyone for that matter. We don't actually know each other, though we have friends in common. We've never had a real conversation, ever. I know, through mutual friends, that we have a great deal in common, but neither of us have pursued making those connections. Sometimes dislike is just an instant thing, not based on any real knowledge or understanding, but sometimes it just is.  This was one of those cases. But what was interesting to me is that I spent most of the drive home thinking about this person (and it was a LOOOONG drive home - it took 2 1/2 hours to get out of the city yesterday).  I thought about this person whom I don't really know. I thought about this person with whom I have had and will have no contact except to occasionally see her at Presbytery meetings, so maybe a couple times a year. And yet, because there is this negativity, this snarling face from her when she looks at me, she took up 2 1/2 hours of my time yesterday in thought. She isn't an enemy, we don't even have that connection, but she is someone who sends negative energy my way, and so even just that small connection is bigger than what I have with most of the other people in that room. I didn't think about those who are acquaintances. I didn't think about those who have been friends and will be friends. I didn't think about who was missing from the meeting or why. I thought about this woman.

And as I thought about her and thought about what Jasmyn had to say, I remembered, in contrast, that probably the most painful thing ever that a person I had cared about years ago said to me was that they didn't even care enough about me to hate me. And at the time, it struck me as odd that that was so deeply painful.  But through Jasmyn's eyes I get it. Hating someone or even just sending negativity towards someone involves a level of care. It involves attention. It involves intentionality. Apathy is something one can't really get beyond.  If someone doesn't care about you at all, could take you or leave you, there is nothing to be done.  If they hate you, well at least you know they are sending thought and energy your way.  And sometimes, that hate can even be transformed because there is some kind of energy behind it. Jasmyn supported and added to her statement yesterday by saying, "When someone goes out of their way to ignore you or avoid you, it usually means they actually care about you a lot."

As I reflected on this, I found myself thinking a couple things. First, it can help to remember that if people are throwing negativity towards you, it means there is some kind of caring there. It may be negative caring, but it is caring. Hatred acknowledges you. Hatred gives you a level of power and respect that says you have impacted them in some way. It isn't apathy, which can be unendurable. Apathy does not see you, does not acknowledge you, gives you no power or respect or even humanity.  Apathy is the eyes that see past you.  Apathy is the ears that don't hear you. Apathy is the refusal to see one's own humanity enough to see yours.  Apathy lacks compassion, grace and caring. Hatred has passion behind it, and again, therefore has the possibility in it of being transformed. Seeing that someone actively dislikes you can reassure you that at least you aren't invisible to them. And there is hope in that.

Second, I don't really want to give my energy, time, or attention to people who are throwing negativity towards me. This is yet one more reason to forgive, to let go, to turn over to God those people, to pray for them and then let God do what God does and not carry it with me. Not that this is easy.  It isn't.   I'm reminded once more of the Susan Werner song, Forgiveness.
"How do you love those who never will love you
Who are happy to shove you out in front of the train....
And I can't find forgiveness for them anywhere in this
And with God as my witness I really have tried
How do you love those who never will love you
I think only God knows and he is not taking sides
I hope one day he shows us how we can love those
Who never will love us but who still we must love"

However, even if it isn't easy, it is important to keep working towards the goal of turning things over and letting them go, of forgiving, of seeking to "love" in the way of caring for and about but not being constantly hurt by those who would send the negativity.  And, even when it is really hard, remembering that in negativity there is caring hiding somewhere can be helpful. So thank you, Jasmyn, for your insights once more.