Recently, I attended a one-night retreat and found myself bonding nicely with my small group. We shared philosophical and theological questions and answers during our discussion time, and it proved immensely fruitful for everyone. However, the leader of this small group, as part of the discussion, recited a quote that I had never heard before, courtesy of Dorothy Day:
“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
Everyone else nodded in assent as if they’d heard this quote a million times, but to me this was new material. It was a thought that had never crossed my mind, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. My group leader went on to say that this quote wasn’t just limited to people you knew and disliked personally- maybe the person you love the least is a certain politician, or a terrorist, or another malicious figure from the evening news.
I definitely knew I was harboring some hate. But surely it was justified hate, so it was okay, right? I mean, the people I was constantly angry with did some pretty bad things. It’s hard to find love in your heart for someone who detonated a bomb which killed 168 adults and children. Almost impossible, some would say.
That’s why, this Lent, I made a promise to myself and to God that I would strive to remove the hatred from my heart. At the time, I didn’t really have a plan for how I was going to do that, but I started by jotting down the names of people I knew I felt anything other than love towards in a Google Doc so I could come back to it later and pray over it.
Which leads me to where I am now- sitting on a couch with a nondescript blue notebook I received as a gift last year, scribbling letters I’ll never mail addressed to those people I need to learn how to love. With every word I write, it’s almost like I can physically feel my heart becoming lighter.
Through the concept of this journal, I’m discovering a lot about myself and how I view other people. To be quite honest, most of what I’m learning about myself isn’t very pretty. It can be difficult to face. But this season of Lent is the best time to encounter the worst parts of ourselves and reconcile them to God, in whatever way you see fit.
I’ve dubbed my blue notebook, the “Love Journal”. Maybe that title doesn’t jive with you. But I encourage everyone to at least confront their hidden hatred. Take some quiet time to pray for your enemies and yourself, and formulate a plan to be more conscious of giving nothing but love to those around you.
See, I never realized what hatred meant until I started offering forgiveness. Everyone deserves the grace of God. I know that. But by harboring resentment towards others, what I was really silently saying was “everyone except you”.
And God doesn’t deal in exceptions- only love.
Allison is a student at Texas A&M University and loves St. Mary’s! Her passion for Christ and love of words combine on the Aggie Catholic Blog, and every day is another moment of inspiration and joy