Words can’t describe how much I detest your writings now… I used to like your work, but I now think you are a fake…
I was shocked when I read a four-letter word in one of your stories… You are profane and our Holy God is going to exact judgement upon all those who profane…
I want you to pay close attention when I say this, because this might be difficult for you to understand:
You cannot make me hate you.
If you get nothing else from this letter, I hope you remember this. No matter what you think of me, no matter what kind of eternal flaming Lake Superior you think I’m bound for, you can’t make me dislike you.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you coming to my barbecue, necessarily. But then again, you wouldn’t have a good time at my party anyway. There are usually a lot of flagrant Episcopalians there.
Anyway, do you want to know something? Do you know what my first reaction was when I received your eloquent letter? If I’m being totally honest with myself, I felt kind of afraid.
“Whoa!” I was thinking. “Am I am a big fake? Is this guy right about me? Maybe he is!”
And I was genuinely scared. Isn’t that pathetic? Maybe you think I’m a big old wuss for admitting this.
Don’t answer that.
The embarrassing truth is, I’ve been afraid for most of my life. In fact, growing up I was almost always afraid.
You’d have to know me to understand this. I had a traumatic childhood. I don’t want to rehash it here because it doesn’t matter. Lots of people blame things on messed up childhoods. I’m not going to do that.
Certainly, I could blame my irrational fears on the fact that my father was mentally unstable and killed himself in my uncle’s garage when I was a boy. Or I could blame my longtime Fear of Failure on the fact that I am a high-school dropout.
Perhaps I could explain away all my other fears too, such as my fear of airports, spiders, snakes, televangelists, jogging suits, certain breeds of llamas, etc. But you’d probably just roll your eyes.
The truth is, I think I grew up afraid because when I was a kid my life sucked. I realized early on that I couldn’t control anything. And this will terrify any boy. It makes my palms sweaty just thinking about it.
I can’t control what will happen today, who lives or dies, the outcome of a football game, or whether my dog will pee on the kitchen floor. I can’t control how badly things will hurt, how good they will feel, how long I’ll live, or which boneheaded mistakes I will make. And I make a lot of mistakes.
For all I know, I am making a huge mistake now by writing you. I should probably just let you alone.
Be that as it may—and I love that phrase—I have found one thing in this world that I CAN control. Just one teensy, tiny, little thing.
I control who I love.
So go ahead and try to make me hate you, but it’s not going to work. You’re not dealing with an amateur here. I have a lot of experience in the field of hating things. I used to be a world champ.
I hated my father for dying young. I grew up hating our screwed up lives. I hated the ultra-religious people who told me suicide was an “unforgivable sin.” These were the same people who worried more about cuss words and beer than they did about, for instance, the threat of nuclear war.
When I got older, I learned how to hate other things too. Like the snooty crowd who looked down on my family because we were sort of different. I learned how dislike any girl who broke my heart. And this just shows you how truly afraid I was inside.
But somewhere along the way this exhausted me. It’s grueling work, disliking people. And I don’t want to do it anymore. I won’t.
I want to fall in love with fools who don’t deserve it. I want to learn to be generous to the embittered, the unjust, the cruel, the egomaniacs, and the telemarketers who call my cellphone forty times per day. I want to care deeply about a stranger who cares nothing for me.
I want to be sweet to my ex-girlfriend’s mother who once told me I wouldn’t amount to squat because I was an uneducated dropout.
I want to be nice to Javen Roberts, who friended me online even though he beat me up in sixth grade because he said I was a “fatty.” Hi, Javen.
And most of all, I want to spend my life learning to love the man who ruined my family by placing a gun barrel into his mouth when I was a child. A man who—even though he didn’t mean to—left me so afraid that I was crippled inside for many years. If I can learn to love that tortured soul, you’re a piece of cake.
Twenty-five years ago I would have never had the courage to write you back. I would’ve been too afraid. But I’m not anymore.
You don’t scare me, sir.
I love the hell out of you.