If Anne Lamott can do it, so can I. 80% of the time. Here’s what Anne Lamott writes:
Every so often, I mention a book I’ve always thought about writing, called All The People I Still Hate: A Christian Perspective. Half the people responding roar with laughter and say, “I’d read that,” and half are sort of horrified, by either the word “hate” or “Christian.”
You’re not supposed to hate, because hate is ugly and diminishes the soul of the hater. But if I were to be honest. I’d admit that I could still write the book, about some of our leaders and one really special ex-boyfriend. But I got the miracle.
There is an entire chapter in the new book titled, “Don’t Let Them Get You to Hate Them,” about the steps I took to reduce my crazed fever dream hatred of certain people, whom I am too polite to name. I do not have the book in front of me (I am on a plane). And I have lost an enormous amount of cognitive function since this book tour began, so cannot give you a synopsis. But I seem to remember something about how all willingness to change and heal from anything addictive, whether alcoholism, dieting, binging, or hatred, begins with the pain of staying the same.
A sober relative once told me that he and his friends, working the 12 Step program, all reached Step Zero before they did Step One (which involves admitting that they were powerless over their drinking and that their lives had become unmanageable.) But before that, they had to arrive at Step Zero: they woke up one morning, sick and tired, and said to themselves, “This shit has GOT to stop.”
I did the hate for a full year after the election. It was kind of exhilarating, definitely mood-altering—I could go from despair and hopelessness, to adrenalized, not quite on fire but hot. I was so stuck, so clenched, my mind filled with tiny rats; I didn’t even know who I would be without my hate.
I felt that if I gave it up, they would win, in the paranoid sense of the word They. I would become a mealy-outhed blob of fear and indecision, like, well, right off the top of my head, Susan Collins. I mean that nicely.
Who, very recently, I was loathing. And now, through the miracle of Step Zero, prayer, radical self-care, and looking in the mirror for the source of the problem—at own fear, my inner blowhard Donald Trump, I am not hating her—very often, or nearly as much.
There’s a story in Almost Everything about one of my 8- year-old Sunday School students, to whom I asked this question one day: “Do you believe that God, and Goodness, are always with us, within us, around us, to comfort or guide, to gentle our hearts and help us get our sense of humor back?”
He thought about this a minute, and then said, “About Eighty percent”
I love this so much. Eighty percent And the great writer and speaker David Roche happens to be the pastor of the Church of 80% Sincerity, which posits that 80% of anything is a small miracle—sincerity, faithfulness, healthy eating, truth-telling (“Darling, I will love you all the way through dinner.”)
So after I reached critical mass with my hatred last year, and realized I had lost myself, felt toxic and rashy, imprisoned and steamrolled, and was becoming them, and that this was what they wanted, I did the most amazing thing. I stopped in my tracks. I asked myself, “What if you have a year left on this vale of tears, this world of wonders. This funny blue marble. Is this how you choose to live?”
Of course not. I want to be a Love Bug, because if you want to have loving feelings, you need to do loving things: We take the action, the kind action, and the insight follows. Wonder and service fill us, and help us pink up, like babies. Revenge empties our reserves, sickens us, and makes our skin look like hell.
My insight is that we are a dangerous species. Cain is still killing Abel, and at the same time, paradoxically, we are as vulnerable as kittens.(There is also a chapter in the hope book I wrote about how all truth is paradox.) So yeah, we get scared, and we blame, and we judge, and we bask in our self-righteous victimization. And we are all, even Dick Cheney, and EVEN (I think) Ted Cruz, precious children of God, with equal standing in the family of mankind and womankind. God loves Mitch McConnell exactly as much as he loves my little grandson. That’s called the mystery of grace.
So if I were to have written a book called All the People I Hate: A Christian Perspective, I should have done so a year ago. It’s all been sort of ruined by the work of the last year. If I were to be honest, I do hate Trump, or at least every single thing he does and says. But less.
Twenty percent of me remembers that he is a man who has never once been loved, never once, except maybe by his kids. His brother was destroyed by the lack of love and committed suicide. Twenty percent of me aches for the total barbaric ruins of his inner life. Twenty percent. That is a miracle. And on top of that, I’ve realized that God looks at Trump and sees His own suffering son, never leaves him and aches for him, too, pulls for him to be transformed by Love, loves him as a mother does her child. Love is WAY beyond what I am personally comfortable or familiar with, tending as I do toward thoughts of perp walks and commissary cheese snacks.
And even when I am still working on the eighty percent part where I have so much rage about some people, I know that God in her infinite divine weirdness still loves hateful revengeful me as much as She loves the perfect baby we played with in Austin.
How can these things be true? You got me; but I know that my belovedness and inclusion in this precious community of All Of Us are due to God having such low standards. (As my son Sam’s aging and barely mobile but joyous dad says, every time he successfully lurches to the next stabilizing counter or tabletop, “Yay God!”) I have absolute hope that we are, and will continue to be okay (well…eighty percent of the time.)
I believe, against all odds, that if we stick together, take care of the poor and the very old, get thirsty people water, including our own worried self-obsessed selves, we can dramatically reduce our viral load. We can be Love with skin on. We can be present in barbaric times, and at the same time be nourished by the gorgeous and inspiring things all around us.
We can be free.