Monday, November 17, 2014
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
When I was in seminary in Boston (the same one that Dr. King of the quote above attended), there was a woman in school with me who hated me. She went out of her way to malign me. She complained about me to school officials for things I had never done. After the third or fourth time, the dean of the college began to understand that it had nothing to do with me, but that the problem lay elsewhere. I would find the air let out of my tires if I had driven my car to school (most days I rode the train into Boston and took the subway to the school). Twice, she (at least I assume it was she) stole my books and papers. She would sneer at me if we passed in the hall. If we ended up in the same class, one or the other of us would change classes. This went on for almost three years. We had met in an orientation class where we talked about ourselves, so she knew more about me than most, but I never knew what I had done or said to make her hate me so intensely. I talked about it with a couple of professor friends, and they advised me to do nothing, so nothing is what I did. I was so very busy during my years in Boston. I was a full-time graduate student carrying a full load of classes, and I was a full-time pastor of a two hundred member church in Stoneham (about fourteen miles north of Boston) where I lived in a parsonage with my wife and two of my three sons (the oldest being in Rochester, New York, where he was getting a Ph.D. in analytical philosophy). My wife fell victim to what they call SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder due to lack of sunlight. Karen grew up in West Texas and then lived in Southern California for the first thirty-eight years of her life and needed a lot of sunlight. She became very depressed, needing hospitalization at one time, and for all intents and purposes making me a single parent, taking care of the kids and the house, as well as nursing her. My normal week saw me studying and working about 120 hours a week and taking care of my boys and my wife in my spare time. I really didn’t need the added hassle of having a fellow student hating me and trying to make my life at school miserable. Then, about two months before she graduated (I had another year to go), she asked me to go to lunch through a professor we both knew. I was stunned to say the least. The professor, whom I trusted, urged me to go, so I went. The woman was very subdued and began the lunch with a long and very sincere apology for her behavior over the past years. She admitted that she had hated me and that she was the one behind the damage to my car and the theft of my books and papers. It was at that lunch that I learned a very valuable lesson. She went on to tell me that she had married just a few years back and was blissfully happy with her new husband. Sadly, he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and died within five weeks of the diagnosis. When she and I were in our orientation class together, she had learned that I had had malignant melanoma with only a 10% chance of living for another two years, but I survived and her husband had died. She hated me from that moment on because I had lived, but the man she loved died of the same disease. She told me it took her a long time and many therapy sessions to learn that she was misdirecting her anger onto me and had come to be able to live with her grief. She hoped that I would understand and not hate her. I told her I forgave her and had never hated her (one of the few times I was one the right side of the angels back in those days), and I felt sorry for her and cared for her. She began crying, got up, left the table, and I never saw her again. I can truthfully say that I continue to pray for her and that I never once was angry at her or thought about revenge. I did have some good counseling from the dean and other professors, but there was never even an ounce of rage or anger inside me. I thought about this after yesterday and realized that you never know what hell someone else is enduring or causing their behavior. Christ understood this when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” and “turn the other cheek,” and “pray for your enemies and bless those who curse you.” I did then, and I do now, even if I slipped a bit for a few minutes yesterday. Follow Christ’s commandments, and your life will be a peaceful one.