How is it that some of the most influential people in our lives are not necessarily the ones we love, or even particularly like.
One such person that comes to mind one is a professor I knew. He is from the generation that Tom Brokaw coined the “greatest generation”. If you can get through the bubble of ignorance my former professor lives in you would find he actually is intelligent. To get to that, you have to be willing to ignore his other, not so wonderful traits.
He cuts down religions; races; women; political views;anything that isn’t his opinion or prejudice. I particularly disliked his treatment of women. He would ask the young men in class to agree with him. They would, for the same reason the young women wouldn’t defend themselves. He held the cards to their future. I don’t believe he meant any harm. He would have had to have been aware of a world outside of himself.
I talked with some of the young men and women about the behavior. The young men were mostly oblivious and regarded him as an old man who didn’t have a clue, was mildly entertaining and not particularly demanding. Some of them would no doubt, go on to emulate him. It bothered the young women, but they lacked the skills to be able to take a stand; they had the influence of their parents in encouraging them to ignore the behavior; and they, like the young men, were not old enough to have experienced life enough to see that he would influence them more than they realized.
For me, it was the first time I really wanted to hate someone and that weighed heavily on my heart. But through diligence, and being a seeker of truth, I was awakened to the idea that people like him are the way they are not only because no one has stopped them, and therefore encouraged the behavior, but also because they are hurting inside that bubble and are a product of their environment. No one has made the effort to reach out to that part of them; not to make excuses for his behavior, but to encourage change, because ultimately, we are responsible for whom we become; how we treat each other, our community, and our society.
So oddly enough, his influence on me has been positive. I learned that to hate is to give hate power over my life and prevents me from using my energies to better use. Hate disconnects me from the goodness of humanity and goes against my natural instinct to receive and give compassion. I am what I practice. If I practice hate, I will draw hate to me. If I practice a peaceful existence, I will draw peace. By overcoming my desire to hate, I have strengthened myself and by extension, have had a small part in strengthening my surroundings.