Friday, December 12, 2014

Open Letter to My 8-Year-Old Upon Hearing the Word "Hate"

My sweet girl,

Hate has been thrown into your life. You have just been told that someone hates you. And I cannot tell you how my heart breaks to know I have to explain to your tender 8-year-old heart what the word "hate" means. Because it will steal a portion of your innocence. Your door into the world will be forced open a little further and you will see some of the darkness there. I have wanted to show you only light--the beauty and delight and ebullience of the world, just as you are beautiful and delightful and ebullient. But I cannot shield you from the darkness outside our front door.

Which is why we are having this conversation and why I am writing this letter. So you can remember and you can come back and read and remind yourself of the truth.

The first truth you must understand is that EVERYONE MATTERS.

If I am honest with myself and with you, upon hearing of this child who said she hated you I wanted to find her and shake her and scream something like, "How dare you, you ignorant child! Go out into the world and experience hate for yourself and you'll never throw that word around again!" But my words would have only perpetuated an already ugly system.

I would have been teaching that child that belittling another human being is permissible so long as you have the upper hand. As she belittled you, so I would belittle her.

I would have been teaching you that retaliation is an acceptable response.

Always remember that everyone matters. You matter, which is why I am so angry that you have been on the receiving end of hate. The girl speaking venom to you matters, because she is speaking from a darkness within her that shouldn't be in one so young. But it's there, and it makes me sad because somewhere along the line her own door into the world was thrown open and she saw darkness and no one was there to tell her what to do with it. So she decided to spread it around instead of fighting it off.

There is enormous turmoil in our country today because people have forgotten this truth. A young man has been killed in the street. His life matters. A police officer did the killing and he must live with that, his family must live with that. Their lives matter. When people forget that everyone matters, hate can find a footing.

The second truth you must understand is that HATE IS SMALL; LOVE IS BIG.

Hate makes a person small. Hate forces a person inward upon herself. When a person hates, that is all she sees. She may be reacting to her own hurts, her own short comings, her own fears, her own incomprehensions, but she is unable to set her eyes on anything else besides the hate that eats at her insides.

When a person is hated, it winnows out a perceived flaw or short coming; that tiny speck of something (that may not even be a flaw, but something beautiful that is misunderstood) becomes all that she sees when she looks at herself and when others look at her. Hate whithers and distorts and shrinks until a person loses sight of the myriad beautiful things that makes her the person she is.

Love does the opposite. Love invites people to look past the flaws, look past the hurts, look past fears, look past ignorances to see the spinning kaleidoscope colors of a person: her beauties and passions and giftings and offerings. Love asks others to do the same. Love extends courage to those who fear rejection or feel inadequate or live in the darkness of the world and don't know there's anything else. Love promises a space free of judgment. "I take you as I find you," Love says, "And I find you beautiful." And it is love, only love, that can change things for the better.

The third truth you must understand is that A WHISPER WORKS WONDERS.

Grown-ups do a lot of yelling. They, of anyone, should know better. I mentioned that my first thought was to yell at the girl who said she hates you. There are adults who are yelling about the young man killed in the street. There are adults who are yelling about the police officer who killed him. And, with everyone yelling, no one is hearing.

Yelling rarely carries a love message. That's because love-messages are best conveyed with a whisper. Do you know why? Because when you whisper, you are required to come close to the other person, to see their face, to touch their shoulder, to smell their perfume. And when you whisper your message into their ear, they will have to bend in close to you to hear your words and they will see you and they will feel your warm breath in their ear and on their cheek and you will tell them something that they ache to hear:

I see you.

You matter.

You are loved.

Whispers are passed around one person at a time, maybe two or three at a time. It's not like a public announcement you hear over the loud speaker at school stating what today's lunch is going to be. And this is why people listen to whispers, because whispers are spoken with the individual hearer in mind.

The final truth you must understand is that YOU WILL BE HURT.

I wish I could offer you a world where you wouldn't have to worry about people yelling or saying words like "hate." You have such a captivating zeal for life and for people and for beauty. I want, at all costs, to shield you from anything that might diminish those gifts I see in you. But I am limited. And my arms have only so much strength and breadth. So I cry when I see you cry. I ache in ways I didn't know possible as I hold you, my aching child.

Still, I tell you to love and to whisper, knowing that you will be hurt because of it. We live in a world that drowns whispers with its roars and declares love to be a weakness. But I'm asking you to love and to whisper because I see your bravery and your tenacity. Because you have uncommon resilience and strength. Because I already see great love in you. Because at the receiving end of my prayers for you is a God whose love-whispers came in the form of His Son who also knows what it is to be hurt by hate. And because love will, in the end, always win.

My sweet girl, this may all seem so big and far away and mystifying to you now. And this letter may seem long and filled with words and ideas that appear unconnected to what you are experiencing. And that's okay. I will continue to speak these truths to you as you grow. I will continue to answer your questions as honestly as I am able. I will continue to protect you from things you are not yet ready to experience, and I will continue to hold back at moments when you must walk bravely forward on your own. Above all, I will continue to pray for you because this is so much bigger than the both of us.

I love you, precious one.



  1. That is such a sweet letter, Anna. Your little girl is blessed to have a mom who cares enough to teach her how to respond to ugliness and why--instead of just reacting with our first emotions. I applaud you for that. Our eight-year-old granddaughter has had her world overturned by ugliness recently and is having to learn those same lessons. I wish they didn't have to.
    I pray for blessings on you and your little family as you scurry around preparing for Christmas! :)

    1. Thank you, Danni. Your family has been on my mind often and in my prayers as much. I hope you all continue to heal and that the Christmas season is filled with joy and laughter and peace.


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