“I never wished for someone to die before.”
Thus began the tearful confession of a young woman who approached me after a recent event in Lincoln, Nebraska. She paused for a second, exhaled loudly—and then continued, her voice shaking:
“I’m ashamed to say that I find myself wishing these terrible people would just… disappear, so that they can’t hurt us anymore.” She said, “I just feel like I’m waiting for them to get old and die off. What do I do with this anger?”
I knew what I was supposed to tell her, what I wanted to tell her.
I wanted to tell her that these impulses were wrong, that such feelings were unhealthy, that this kind of consuming hatred toward another human being was dangerously toxic.
I wanted to remind her that this level of contempt for a stranger, was the very thing she abhorred in the people she feels this way toward.
I wanted to steer her from such negative energy—but I couldn’t do any of these things.
I understood her.
Her desperation and hopelessness make total sense.
This is a natural human response to unchecked brutality and unrelenting cruelty: wanting it all to end.
You don’t actually wish harm to people, you just wish harmful people would stop harming people—and there seems to be nothing in them that will move them to stop.
When we see powerful human beings willfully doing damage to other people or to the planet, this rage is our heart’s alarm; it is our very humanity protesting against unspeakable violence that we feel powerless to do anything about. Imagining a world without predators and bullies and malevolent people, is a way to stay tethered to our sanity; a defense mechanism against complete emotional collapse. Of course, we don’t desire violence, but we understand our past enough to know that sometimes injustice and hatred are generational: bigotry experiences a Renaissance, has a brief prolific period, and then passes. It seems like we are in the middle of that vitriolic rebirth right now and we want it to end.
Throughout the history of the planet, when people have viciously assailed mankind, there have been good people whose stomachs have been turned and whose blood has boiled in response—people who loved and cared and healed and prayed and worked—and who knew they might have to wait for change to fully come, through young people who rejected such hatred wholesale.
And that’s the pivot that needs to happen in our hearts when we feel that scalding anger at people who are presently evil: we look forward to what might be born on the horizon of history. We pour ourselves into the lives of young people, we work to change the hearts we can, we seek compromise and common ground with those who disagree with us, and we do everything in our power to prep the ground for the equality and diversity and justice that will inevitably grow.
Of course, I’d never wish physical harm on another human being or ever rejoice in anyone’s early demise—but I confess that in these days I take some solace in the reality that we are all temporary: that everything shifts, that all tyrants pass away, that all evil empires fall, that all hateful movements die out, that all monuments to inequity eventually crumble.
I rest in the knowledge that the people here who seem singularly burdened to injure others—will one day naturally cease to be. I don’t hope for that day and I don’t hasten that day, I simply pray that when it does come: when the hateful people doing such unrestrained damage finally depart this place—that compassionate, kindhearted, loving people are born to occupy the space they leave.
I pray for a new Renaissance of empathy for this place, and trust that it will come.
No, I am not waiting for bad people to die—I’m doing all the good that I can while I live.
Originally Published on JohnPavlovitz.com