It is a testament to how carefully I lived my life that I made it almost to age 40 without making a real enemy. I never even had a genuine argument with anyone (my little brother doesn’t count) because … and this is important … I let everyone else win before an argument could even start!
As a child, I let my friends choose what games we played at recess. As a teenager, I let other friends choose what stores we shopped in at the mall. As a young woman, I let my parents and others choose where I went to college, what kind of car I drove and how my wedding reception was decorated. As an employee, I managed to be the ONLY employee at two different jobs to leave with a farewell party … I won over my bosses by responding with a smile no matter what they said or did to me. As a young mother, I let the other moms choose the playdate locations and what I would bring to the school potlucks. In other words, it was not worth it to me to fight over the “small stuff” or the “big stuff” for that matter.
Like the owner of a brand new car, I carefully protected the shiny surface of my life by steering clear of any potential emotional danger. And it worked.
Until the day it didn’t!
Out of nowhere (well actually out of my mailbox), came a 12 page, single-spaced missive that spelled out in minute detail what a horrible, conniving, evil person I was.
It is a severe understatement to say that this document rocked my world. In fact, it plunged me into months of agony, anger and depression. To my knowledge, everyone in my life liked me and most of them loved me. Now I had gone from zero to 100 mph in an instant. Someone actually HATED ME!
It took several years for the situation to resolve and heal. Thankfully, we are friends again. But looking back on it, “that time I was hated” was a major turning point in my emotional growth.
As a result of being wrongly (and a little bit rightly) attacked and accused, I learned:
* that it is possible to do the right things for the wrong reasons
* that it is possible to do the wrong things for the right reasons
* that no one can truly know or understand another person’s motives
* that really angry people cannot hear your words
* that it’s important to have compassion for people when they make mistakes
* that it’s important to admit when you’re wrong and learn humility
* that words are powerful enough to tear whole families apart
* that people should never listen to one side if they aren’t willing to listen to the other side
* that you never know who is really “on your side” until something ugly happens
* that even when NO ONE else understands your point of view, YOU must know your truth
* that even the most careful living in the world can’t protect you forever
* that it’s important to have opinions and to state them and ask for them to be honored!!!
And the NUMBER ONE thing that I learned from being hated is …
THAT IT WAS INCREDIBLY FREEING!!
The very thing I feared had come upon me. Like getting that first scratch on a new car, I could now relax! The need to maintain the image of perfection was over. My life’s fender was most undeniable dented!
After the initial outrage and sadness about the damage … I felt a huge sigh of relief. I was hated and I was STILL OK. My life’s car was drivable and still looked pretty good. In fact, that dent actually gave me a little “character” and a whole lot of compassion for others who’ve experienced accusation and hatred. I even felt love for those who have hurt others through their choices and now must live with that knowledge.
Being hated made me both “more careful” and “more carefree” in my relationships. I became more careful with my words and spent time examining my motives to be sure I was acting in love. I stopped caring as much what everyone else wanted or thought. By being so “neutral,” I had robbed others of truly knowing me and seeing my heart. Because I now knew that I could survive great pain, I didn’t need to guard my heart as fiercely. I became more REAL and my friendships deepened.
The truth is … being hated helped me grow up!
That little girl on the playground was gone and in her place was a woman who had weathered a beating and learned a tremendous amount about life and love in the process.
Life can certainly bang us up and friends and family relationships are fraught with potential clashes. I sincerely hope that you are cruising along at peace with all your peeps … but if (or when) you get sideswiped, just know that you will be OK. Truly.
And after awhile, you will not only survive … you will even THRIVE.