When People You Wrote Off Come Back

Published on April 10th, 2020

Hate is a word that is so overused that it loses its meaning and intensity in most contexts. People will “hate” everything from a politician to their least favorite food (I’m looking at you broccoli). However, this is nothing compared to the states of impulsive rage or festering anger that occurs when a person truly and completely hates something.

So when I say I hated my dad during my childhood years, I mean it in the most complete sense. In my mind, he was the villain, and he had few, if any, redeeming qualities. I wanted to be as far away from him as I could because I perceived him as the source of all my problems. Life would just be perfect if he was gone.

And then he was. I’ll spare the details, but I still remember the celebration in my body and heart when my mom told me about the restraining order. NOW life would be amazing! NOW I could finally cut that fucker out of my life forever!

For a while, life was much much better, and I felt smug and justified in my continued disdain for him.

That is until one day, I was biking past his garage on the way to my friend Jake’s house. He was outside, and he saw me. I was scared that he was going to be resentful regarding what we did to him, so I braced myself. However, no insults or attacks came. He said hello and waved, and that was that. On the way back, he did it again. A few weeks later, I biked past again, and the same thing happened.

Eventually, I stopped biking by long enough to talk to him. He asked how we were doing, and I could tell there was genuine concern in his voice and sadness in his heart. It was the most surreal feeling to see through the walls of hate that I had so painstakingly built up around him.

20 years later, our relationship has fully healed. I never saw my dad as a person in my younger days, Had I been able to see through my hate, I might have noticed that he was a human in pain.

In the last week, I’ve gotten into some Twitter arguments. And while I didn’t get to the point of “hating” these other individuals, I was annoyed enough that I was mentally writing them off as stupid or not worth my time. But I paused. I didn’t unfollow or block them. I just observed and kept sharing my thoughts and perspective without engaging with them directly.

Oddly enough, some of the things I later wrote or shared connected with them, and they re-engaged. Only this time, the conversation didn’t feel hostile. Instead, I could see their humanity shine through. Although these cases were far less extreme than the rollercoaster I went through with my dad, the pattern was the same. Those that I once wrote off can come back, but only if you are willing to leave the door open and soften your heart for another chance.

This isn’t always a practical way to approach life. Sometimes it’s critical to set a strong, healthy boundary with people to protect yourself from abuse or trolling from others. We aren’t required to be someone else’s punching bag if they are unwilling to meet us halfway.

Still, in the past few weeks, I’ve come close to blocking people on social media only to find common ground on other topics later on. So the theme of giving people another chance has been top of mind lately because of these recent positive results. It won’t always be warranted, and some people will undoubtedly make me reconsider this approach. Still, I’m willing to keep trying given how profound the turnaround I had with my dad. There’s no more hate, only love in my relationship with him.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.