Hate

I’ve experienced a rather unsettling revelation.

I hate someone.

This is not the first time this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. People, by nature, are almost designed to bump up against one another and cause friction. Arguments and misunderstandings and dirty deeds will continue to happen between human beings from now until the end of time. Grudges will be held, friendships will be severed, and dislike will bubble over into hatred time and time again.

Something feels different about this, though, and that’s what is bothering me. Like most all of us, I have been mistreated personally and professionally at various points in my life. I’ve been picked on, although I’m not sure I was ever bullied. I was put down verbally and made to feel worthless. In most of these instances, I knew who the people were. It wasn’t as if pain were being inflicted on me by strangers. I always managed a certain amount of disconnect somehow, though, as if these people were more constructs of things I didn’t like than antagonists capable of wounding me.

As the old saying goes, this time it’s personal.

hateI’m not sure if fully realized hatred is possible in cases where trust has not been fully given. I’m not sure if a bona fide enemy can be acquired without some sort of relationship with a nemesis. I can’t imagine a deeper wound being inflicted by someone other than a friend, someone you have shared details of your life with and never dreamed they would ever do anything to hurt you.

This happened to me. I still can’t actually believe it. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up one day to discover it didn’t actually happen. I did trust someone. I did have a relationship with someone. I was friends with someone. It feels strange talking about it in the past tense, but it’s true. That state of being is over, and I’m not sure it will ever come back.

It also feels strange to feel absolutely no remorse over feeling the way I do. Even now, I want to include a paragraph about how I feel bad about how I feel and how I wish I could figure out how to put things right. I would be lying, though. I feel nothing right now but blind rage, and I wish nothing but vengeance on this person. I at least have the morality left to not try to inflict that vengeance myself. It is difficult, though, to not stoop to that level. I want to be a wrecking ball, destroying every object of hate in my path.

This feeling is not fading. It feels as if it will last forever, and everything from common sense to religion to quotes in the Reader’s Digest are telling me to let it go. I can’t, though. I don’t even want to right now. Is this meanness? Is it sin? Is a byproduct of depression? Am I just not a very good person, or am I simply a human being who is having a very natural reaction to a terrible situation?

I hate not knowing the answer.

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Tuneful Tuesday: What I’m Looking For

There are a number of songs I can remember from my lifetime that I just did not “get” when they were popular. Sometimes I was too young to understand what they were talking about. Sometimes I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to appreciate them. And, probably, sometimes I just didn’t care what they meant. Whatever the case, I didn’t appreciate these songs fully until they had passed their apex of popularity.

A prime example of this is U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” from the band’s mega-selling album The Joshua Tree. Those old enough to remember when this album was current will no doubt recall that radio, television, and virtually every other type of media was saturated with all things pertaining to the Irish rock band. As is my common practice when I feel someone or something is being overexposed, I eventually just stopped paying much attention to all the hoopla, which is sort of a shame, because The Joshua Tree is a really brilliant album, recorded before U2 lost some of the fire that made them such a treat to listen to in their early days.

Beyond the fatigue aspect, though, I had a difficult time reconciling Bono’s lyrics to the Christian beliefs he seemed to express. I mean, if you are a Christian and you’ve met Jesus, what more could you be looking for? Even outside of the religious slant, if you climbed the “highest mountain,” what else do you have to accomplish? If you’ve kissed “honey lips,” what lust is there left to satisfy? If Bono had found all that, what in the world could he still be looking for?

All the years later, I understand what he was singing about. Whether it is a symptom of depression or middle age or simple selfishness, there is still a large amount of dissatisfaction residing within me. Whatever that missing piece is that will make me feel whole, I haven’t found it yet. Religion, family, work… There is still something not quite right, and I have not been able to identify what that is. There is a peace and joy which still eludes me. Sometimes I believe I have found what I lack, only to see it slip away once more. Sometimes I wonder if such a thing exists at all.

I used to sit back and declare judgement on Bono for not being satisfied with what he had. I wish now that I could take those words of condemnation back. I get it now. And I’m still looking, too.

Tuneful Tuesday: Mine

If you’ve ever noticed me occasionally dropping references to Van Halen in this blog, there’s a reason for that. At one point in my life, I actually owned every VH album that had been made up to that point. In fact, the only ones I never owned were III (because it was dreadful), Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (because I already had everything that was on it), and Best of Both Worlds (see previous reason).

One VH song, in particular, played a very prominent role in my life. “Right Now,” the very popular single with an even more popular video from the album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, was actually instrumental in my deciding to become a Christian. I had been considering giving my heart to the Lord and being baptized, so when my impressionable high school brain heard the words of this song, well, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer.

That’s not the song I’m writing about here, though, although this post will discuss another song from the “Van Hagar” era. The album OU812 is not one of my favorites in the VH catalog, but it does have some bright moments, in particular the single “When It’s Love.” While most of the songs on the album are about sex, it’s opening track stands out in fairly stark contrast to the rest of the material.

“Mine All Mine” is the type of song that almost slips past a listener, if they’re not paying attention. It seems deathly serious compared to the other tracks on OU812, starting with the lyric, “Forgive me, Father/For I have sinned/I’ve been through hell and back again.” Sammy Hagar’s sort of fascination with religion would pop from time to time in the VH catalog, most notably in the song “Seventh Seal” from the album Balance. In this particular song, he’s not touting any one religion over another or even really endorsing any religion at all. He just wants people to believe in something.

I have to admit, this song has basically nothing to do with how I’ve thought about depression at any point in my life. I have been thinking about it lately, though, because the concept of grabbing onto something I can call uniquely mine is becoming more and more important to me. Something that doesn’t belong to anyone else, something I will hold onto tooth and nail. Following the crowd and the rules has led to many unhappy points. Whatever “it” is for me, I want it to be mine.

I Gotta

Have you ever had one of those mornings where all your issues seem to just lay themselves out right before your eyes? It’s like all of a sudden you see exactly what’s going on, and you begin to get a real sense of what is going to be required for you to turn things around. And then you make a fatal mistake by uttering those two terrible words…

“I gotta…”

Think you should be writing more? “I gotta get to work on that book idea…” Should you start bookexercising again? “I gotta get to the gym more often…” Missing old friends? “I gotta start being more sociable…” Thinking about getting the band back together? “I gotta start writing songs again…” Feeling a little far from God? “I gotta start reading my Bible and praying more…”

It’s amazing how two little words can turn something you’re passionate about or something you enjoy doing or something that could truly benefit you into grueling, grinding, miserable work of the most frustrating order. Suddenly, writing becomes a pressure cooker. Staying in touch with friends seems more like a weekly requirement. A relationship with God becomes a guilt-ridden minefield of good intentions gone awry.

It’s always astounded me, the way I’m able to put pressure on myself in a way no one else can or even does. Is there an editor somewhere expecting a manuscript from me by the end of the month? No. Do I need to set a new personal best time for riding my bicycle around my neighborhood because I need to qualify for some competition? No. Most of all, do I even possess the strength within myself to be the kind of Christian I should be?

No.

The problem with being a Christian and “I gotta” is that it flips the teachings of Jesus on their heads. When God puts a motivation on our hearts, what He wants us to do is turn to Him for the strength to do what needs to be done, not to place even more demands on ourselves. Instead of praying about my issues, I begin to obsess over all the things I should be doing more of. So I start putting forth greater effort, only to find I’m almost immediately overwhelmed and utterly depressed by my lack of success.

“I can’t do it,” I say to myself. “I’ve failed … again.”

You know what the only thing I gotta do? Trust God. Rely on His strength, not mine. Stop pressing so hard. Find some joy again in the things I love and stop making everything some sort of competition or deadline. Accept that if I make the attempt He’ll meet me halfway, instead of believing I have to complete the work and then present it to Him.

None of this is optional. I gotta do it.

 

The Sacred And The Profane

I tried to be good. I really, really did. I white-knuckled the bar until I thought I would bend it in half. I looked around, formed an interpretation of the standard, and did my best to live by it.

And now I’m kind of tired.

rules-for-allBefore anyone gets alarmed, this is not one of those “Here’s Why I Left Christianity” posts. I am still very much a Christian. I still believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and that he died on a cross and was raised from the dead three days later. I believe his blood washed away my sins and that he has made me a new creation. I believe the Bible is the holy word of God and that it contains the words of wisdom needed to live a joyful and fulfilling life. As the late Rich Mullins once sang, “I believe what I believe.”

The older I get, though, I’m beginning to realize the very real danger of turning Christianity into such a rigid, unyielding, methodical set of rules that it somehow ceases to be transforming, redemptive, or powerful. Such an emphasis can be put on “doing the right thing” that we begin to run the risk of never know exactly what we should be doing. Following the script becomes the most important thing, and the specter of self-condemnation is ever at the door. It’s not so much a falling from grace as it is simply giving it up in favor of an impossible standard.

I lived a lot of years around people who abused the concept of grace. They basically turned it into a license to treat people however they wanted and then turn the other person’s hurt back on them by accusing them on not extending grace to them. It was messed up, but it made me rigid as far as the rules were concerned. I sure didn’t want to be like that, so I adopted the hard line. The only problem was, I still sinned, and since I was so bent on keeping the rules, I beat the crap out of myself every time I broke one. That’s what the serious Christians did, I told myself.

I have literally lost track of how many times I have cleaned out all my “secular” music, only to replenish all of it within a couple of years. I purged all my movies I deemed unacceptable, but, you know, Marvel’s The Avengers was pretty cool, so… I stopped cursing … well, except for when I got really mad or when I wanted to make a point or when I was alone in the car or…

And I felt very, very guilty about all this for a very, very long time. No, actually, I felt ashamed of all this. Guilt would describe how I felt about committing these heinous infractions; shame would describe the loathing of who I was as a person who couldn’t seem to get it right.

I still believe grace can be carried too far, but I’m also beginning to believe the leash may be a little longer than I thought it was. I let a word go ron burgundyhere and there, sometimes accidentally, sometimes not. I have the dialog from a large chunk of the movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy memorized. “The Humpty Dance,” by Digital Underground, is on my iPod. Do all these items added up sound like a formula for biblical wisdom? Possibly not. Do I get a certain level of enjoyment out of them, though? Um, yeah. Yeah, I do. More joy than I got out of attempting to live like a pharisee, that’s for sure.

The question becomes, then, where to draw the line? Is this all a sign that I’m loosening up and living a little or am I gradually sliding toward oblivion? I’d like to think it’s the former more than the latter. One of the effects of depression is how it can paralyze your decision-making abilities, and two stone tablets carved full of rules on your shoulders doesn’t help this any. As someone recently said to me, whatever decision you make is yours. Whether it’s good or bad, you have to live with the consequences. But, in the end, it’s yours.

I am not a thrill-seeker. I’m not looking for danger. I’m generally a nice guy. I want to be a good Christian and a good parent and a good husband. I would like to do all that while I’m alive, though, and not some hollow shell that’s forgotten how to experience the joy of life. It’s a process I’m still walking out, trying to determine the line between the sacred and the profane. It’s probably a line more people are walking than would care to admit.