Driving Myself to the Promised Land
Steering Clear of Hate
In an earlier incarnation of my life as a church attending Christian, I often heard from the pulpit that you should hate the sin but not the sinner. This clearly delineated how to make room for hate as a religious person. You can then hate abortion, other peoples’ sexual preferences or the liberal agenda that is destroying the country since, theoretically, it is the actions of others that you hate and not the people that are doing those activities. Then, as God’s agent in the world you can and are often encouraged to take up certain causes, carry signs and vote for tantrum throwing imbeciles on the Lord’s behalf. This is a neat and tidy loophole, a handy tool. I find myself also using it when thinking about the people who vote for tantrum throwing imbeciles.
I do wonder, however, if we should allow ourselves such a liberty. Even if I hate the haters, those who lash out and spew hate and hate them for their hatred does that justify my own? Hate is not an easily controlled emotion. Can we truly parse the difference between hating the doer and hating what they do? Such a strenuous act of superhuman discipline to know that what you’re feeling is hitting your intended target cleanly like a straight arrow and not scattering like wild buckshot because you allowed yourself to pick up the shotgun in the first place. Hate in my experience has felt way more like a shotgun blast than a single arrow nailing its intended target.
I have used this metaphoric shotgun on occasion but never more so than when I am driving and encounter a man in a pickup truck. The one that drives like they’re compensating for something by threatening to annihilate any vehicle that gets in front of them. I have had many (okay, numerous) occasions when a guy in a pickup tailgated me flashing their headlights or zoomed around me in a big kerfuffle endangering the both of us because of an intentional or unintentional reaction on my part to their bad driving. Over time this has caused an automatic feeling of annoyance whenever I am driving anywhere near such a vehicle. With a guy in it. I am anticipating testosterone induced behavior even before he’s done anything remotely hormonal. I realize this is slightly irrational and maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy. Admittedly, there are other vehicles I have had bad experiences with that weren’t pickups and some of those were driven by women. But that doesn’t enter my mind when I’m on the road. A guy in a pickup is a stereotype I’ve allowed myself to keep alive and am on alert over just in case it happens again. Once it does, he is the release valve for all the other pickup experiences that suddenly rise up to meet me as I am flipping the bird at the current pickup nincompoop.
In allowing myself this release, do I ever distinguish between pickup bad behavior and the bad pickup driver? Do I take that pause and channel my rage to what he is doing and not the person doing it? By the names I am calling him after he pulls in front of me and slams on his brakes I would suspect I am not hating his actions exclusively.
Jesus once said to a group of religious folk who were wanting to stone an adulterous woman, as was their custom, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Am I a perfect driver? No. Do I make selfish calls on the road? Yes. It’s so easy when you’re hidden behind the armor of your vehicle to do your worst then drive away. Taking my own failings into account can lead toward the general, and I’m assuming, more righteous direction of not condemning nor hating others. Even bad drivers. Of pickups.
If you give yourself a pass to hate you may end up using it and hate will have its way with you. It may start out as a passing notion but it can eventually mutate into something you are seething with, showing your teeth for and one day taking matters into your own hands by picking up a stone.
And if in your fury you begin calling down the wrath of God can you be entirely sure where it will land?