Georges Selzer was a Jewish survivor of the Halocaust when I interviewed him for a story years ago.
If anyone had a reason to hate, Selzer did in spades. The Nazis at Auschwitz in Poland brutalized him and his fellow captors in ways that most cannot imagine. Many died. He survived and showed me the number 101100 the Nazis tattooed on his forearm as he stood naked in the snow.
Yet Selzer does not hate. He is not consumed with anger or bitterness.
“Hate is a disease. To hate is a sin and if you hate somebody, you hurt no one but yourself because it eats you inside.”
I thought about Selzer this past week because my wife was recently betrayed by someone very close to both of us, someone destroyed by paranoia, anger, hate, bitterness and a need to strike out at those whose only desire was to help.
As a journalist, I have witnessed first hand the damage that hate can bring into the world. As a recovering alcoholic, I have dealt with my own anger and the difficulty managing it. I thought life experiences had prepared me to deal with anger and hate in others.
I was wrong. When anger, bitterness and hate is directed at someone you love very deeply and trust with your life, it begins to eat away at your own sanity. It attacks your soul like a rapidly-spreading cancer and saps you of emotional control.
We live today in a world dominated by distrust, paranoia and hate. We don’t trust government, banks, doctors, lawyers or business. We view challenges as threats, not as something that can be overcome with resolve. When something bad happens, it is someone else’s fault. Blame must be assigned, not assumed.
Yet when anger, bitterness and hate spews from the mouth of someone you thought you knew, it cuts deep to the core of your soul. It threatens your ability to deal with anyone, not just those close to you.
I’m not a particularly moral man. I’ve made monumental mistakes in my life, some of which required public atonement, many more that required personal acceptance and requests for forgiveness. For the past 30 years, the moral center of my life has been my wife. Amy has brought me back to the straight and narrow more times than any man has a right to deserve. There is not a more honest, more caring, more forgiving person in this world. Without her, I would be dead, drowning in a sea of alcoholism or locked away in rehab somewhere. I owe her my life, my love and my undying, unflinching and unwavering support until — as the Rev. Lawrence Jackman told us in Alton, Illinois some 30 years ago — death does us part.
Someone — driven by anger, bitterness and hate — tried to destroy the bond between Amy and I this past week.
That someone made a big mistake. It is a breach of faith that will not be forgotten. Forgiveness will come in time. My reaction to this betrayal is hurt, not hate, and I feel no anger or bitterness…just a deep sadness. We will move on. That is our way.
(Updated at 7:45 p.m. to add additional thoughts)