forgiveness: hate mail

One need not be famous to receive hate mail; one only need be a mother.

I know because I get hate mail all of the time. It is usually placed in short piles by my door or neatly by my pillow. There is never one letter, there are many, the letters are large and the words are clear: I do not like you, mom.


I don’t mind that this is how one child of mine expresses anger. These feelings need release. But I might prefer she not actually deliver the letters. She could, you know, just keep it to herself. As it is, though, she pens them and brings them to my room and when I find them sometime later and ask her about it, she sheepishly takes them to the recycling bin. Because by then the moment has passed and whatever reality that needed to be addressed already has been.

Truth be told, I write hate mail too.

If I find myself writing it in my head, I find it’s best to just get my brilliant, cutting words down on paper. It would be a waste of intelligence otherwise. I pull out my journal and, in the presence of God, I call people names. I tell Him all the awful things they did and why my life is miserable because of them. I tell God it was not kind of him to make them or to put them in my life. I point out all their faults and I assign all of their motives. I remember all the awful and semi-awful things they’ve ever done to me, along with the nice things, which were probably awful things underneath. And I name all of the feelings I have, all of which are their fault. I scream and I shout and I get it all out.

Please, if I die unexpectedly, would one of you burn my journals before anyone gets a chance to read them?

My hate mail might not be kind or true, but it allows me one essential step in forgiveness: experiencing and expressing emotion. When I write my hate mail, I don’t have to make sense, I don’t have to be correct, I don’t have to be polite. I don’t censor myself. I give myself full permission to feel and think all that’s inside without judgement.

So basically, I act like a child. I am uninhibited and foolish. But Jesus says the Kingdom of God belongs to children. He can work with uninhibited and foolish people. So that is what I bring.

But writing hate mail does more than afford opportunity for expression, it’s also a pathway to healing if I stick around after the First Act.

Because after I have nothing left to say, it’s quiet in my heart and we are sitting around a little shell-shocked by the ordeal. But I stay. I stay because if I wait in that space, the anger is slowly replaced by something much quieter: Truth.

It starts almost like a spring rain: one drop here and then, ten seconds later, a drop there. Before long, its coming down steady and I am washed in it. I begin to see my own wrong attitudes, I see where I erred, I hear how my own feelings — maybe guilt or a need to prove myself — caused me to interact in less than ideal ways. Humbled and reminded of my own responsibility, I begin to see the relationship and the situation with fresh eyes.

Calling them stupid makes it all the more obvious that they are not. Ranting about how their life goal is to ruin me makes it a less credible accusation. Seeing how my own faults inspired some of theirs helps me realize it might not have been all their doing. Naming my emotions makes me see that what I feel says more about me than it does about them.

And as the truth of the situation comes into focus, what began as hate mail turns into repentance and clarity of thought.

Consider that next time you are angry. Sit down and, in the presence of God — or maybe if you feel like God will be angry with you, you can do it by yourself and then show him later — write that hate mail. Or maybe lock yourself in your room and give an audio version. Or go for a walk and hold your phone up to your ear and get ranting (you can do it without the phone, just be prepared for someone to stop and ask about your mental well-being).

Speak it. Write it. Take that inside whirlwind of emotion and thought and give it words. Give yourself permission to get it out and get it over with. And then stay. Wait for the gentle, soft rain of Truth to whisper what couldn’t be heard over Anger’s noise.



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