I have for my entire adult life, done my very best to not have regrets - and by that I don't mean avoid looking into the past - but despite knowing that it's probably a waste of my energy, I have to admit that I have one or two grudges.
Silly isn't it? I mean, rationally, there is little to gain from having a bit of a hate on for someone else, but therein lies another issue. Despite having what I consider to be much justification for harbouring ill feeling towards a very small number of people, I have (so far) managed to avoid the mistake of actually 'hating' anyone. Which I think, on balance, is probably a positive thing.
At present I have a short list of people whom I consider to be either annoying, unthinking, insensitive, arrogant, deliberately unpleasant or a mixture of any number of the above. The list could be longer of course, but as a modern human (allegedly) I think it behoves (one 'o') me to remain aware of my own failings, and remember that I'm probably wrong about some people, or have at least jumped to a much too early judgement or conclusion.
Still, some - not many, but some - people have blatantly gone out of their way to make my life less enjoyable. I don't like that very much - and to be honest, I don't understand it. When I worked as a police officer I regularly had dealings with people whose behaviour would shock the average person, and whose morals and values were enormously divergent from my own. Many of these people were reprehensible, sad excuses for human beings and while I disliked a great many of them, I never felt moved to hate any of them, or even to harangue or harass them. I fear that hating someone would probably lead me down a path to self - destruction; looking into that kind of future I see myself becoming vindictive and obsessed with revenge or at least what I consider to be justice. It's not a future I wish to explore in any meaningful way. It's not who I believe myself to be.
So, turning my back on hate, I am content to get to the 'grudge' stage and pretty much leave it there. I find that Grudging takes up enough energy and more than enough time for me to want to venture forth into the hatey kind of stuff. Is it just me, I wonder? I doubt it, but I genuinely do experience a tiredness, a drain on my resources when negative emotions cloud my day for even a brief interval. There have been such times - and I know that I'm not alone - for various reasons over the last few years. There have been moments when my emotions have almost boiled over, but I am glad that I have never reached the stage of really hating someone. I've just got to the 'grudgy' level and no further.
How has this helped me? Well, I can only surmise because I've never been on the other side of that line. Like all of us, I've experienced extremes of happiness, frustration, and anger. I've even - when defending myself in the course of my duty and upon the rugby pitch - used violence towards others. But 'hate' seems so much further down the slippery emotional slope.
I do have a little story which may illustrate how not hating has been of benefit to me.
I think I might have good reason to hate one man in particular (if I so wished). I joined the police force in England at the tender age of nineteen. Within months of starting my duties on the street, I fell victim to a bully - a supervisor, who, for reasons best known to himself, decided to devote inordinate amounts of his time toward trying to push me out of the police service. Without going into details, I endured eighteen months of intense pressure at this man's hands, supported as he was by another like-minded bully of much higher rank. He nearly beat me; towards the end of this part of my career, I would drive to work in tears, pulling myself together in time to show a brave face in the police station. I began to apply for different jobs, hoping for a lifeline. I was desperately unhappy - partly because my father, too, was a police officer and I could not share my shame with him.
In the end, tenacity (and the lack of genuine alternatives) won out, and the bully was transferred to other duties. I didn't hate him. I disliked him intensely of course, and probably came closer to hating him than any other person in my life. He had after all deeply affected my life for eighteen months, affected my mental health (I have little doubt that I would have been diagnosed as clinically depressed had I sought medical help), and if truth be told, he probably affected my entire adult life by stripping away my youthful confidence at a vulnerable point of my career. However; I didn't hate him - I remember feeling that to give in to hate, to make him a target for my own wrath would be to allow him a final victory - to make me somehow similar to him. So I didn't hate him. Instead I pitied him.
Within months of his departure, providence, fate or the justice fairies gifted me an opportunity to have my revenge. Completely by chance I caught him in an act of professional misconduct - or at least the circumstantial evidence fell into my hands while I was performing my duties. It was enough for him to lose rank and a much coveted role. Justice was served when he held a clandestine meeting with me, admitted his bullying and threatened me if I pursued the matter and tried to damage him. In truth I had no intention of so doing; his disgrace would also require that of another officer, and I had no wish to negatively affect the innocent lives of their respective families (this was not, incidentally, an issue connected with the course of justice). Face to face with my nemesis, I shakily told him (and I am proud of this moment to this day) that it was not my style to try to ruin someone else's career, that I would not stoop to that level because I felt it was as low as anyone could get. Those words were my personal revenge. I know that he understood.
Had I allowed myself to hate that man, I know that I'd have pursued him with all my energy until he ran out of breath and spirit to fight; I'd have never stopped until I had my quarry at my mercy - and then I would have shown no mercy. I know what lies within hate - my hate. My life, my career would have been very different had I allowed it.
Instead, however, I did my best to forget him and his deeds, and for the most part I have been successful. My happy life is my reward for not hating - my ultimate revenge against a man who would have seen me destroyed. I still bear a grudge; it's a little like a forgotten tattoo out of sight even in the mirror; once in a while I'm reminded of it; in this case a sad, small man who chose me as his victim.
Because it's only a grudge, however, it allows me the space to appreciate the lonely, ashamed young man who nearly fell, but who subsequently lifted his chin and built a good life despite a difficult beginning. He did a great job in spite of very difficult circumstances. If he had started to hate, things would have been very, very different - that much I know for certain. I regularly remember to thank him for that - I would not be where I am without his quite remarkable effort, which to this day allows me to turn away from hate.
He did well, and he taught me not to hate.