By Matt Hearnden

The person we hated most in the world was in the room with us and we had to say what we’d always wanted to say to them.

They weren’t really there, of course. We pretended they were. How often do the things we pretend to be true become true?

The trainer running the exercise even gave us permission to shout and call them a “fucking ****.” I was excited.

I told this person that he was a complete dick. That I didn’t understand why he had to be such a dick to me. That I didn’t get why he had to make my life miserable.

That he’d made me feel small. That he’d made me feel like I could never do anything right. That he’d ruined something I’d loved.

I didn’t shout but I did get animated. I could feel my anger in my chest and on my hands and behind my eyes.

I was finally saying everything I never would’ve had the courage to say and I felt power.

The trainer then told us to be the person we hated and to speak back to ourselves.

I laughed. I think I could already see what was going to happen.

I said, as the person I hated, to myself, that I was trying to take something he wanted. That he was fighting to keep it. That the arena we played in wouldn’t tolerate anything less than a real competition.

That it wasn’t personal. That he was jealous of me. That he thought I might beat him.

That he was scared.

The trainer then told us to be the world’s leading expert on this exact kind of situation. A person who’d seen every variation of this situation, had studied these situations for 50 years, and who was smart and wise and perceptive beyond anything we’d ever dared to think.

We were the world’s leading expert and we were to tell the rest of the people in the training session what was really going on beyond the hate.

I said that Matt was taking this too personally. That the other kid was merely fighting to keep something that Matt wanted and that Matt would’ve done just that. That Matt had never spoken to the person he hated and tried to find something they could agree on. That the person Matt hated was clearly jealous of Matt and scared that Matt was going to take the thing he wanted and had, the thing that his friends all wanted and all had. That Matt had the choice to ignore this person. That Matt wanted to be liked by him and was frustrated and angry and upset that he wasn’t liked by him. That Matt and him actually wanted the same thing. That they respected each other. That Matt could choose to forgive the person he hated.

I think I went into a trance when I was told to be the world’s leading expert because after I stopped talking I felt lighter and calm.

And free.

I laughed again because laughter is freedom.

I’d forgiven the person I hated.

Because how he’d treated me wasn’t about me.

It was about him.

It wasn’t because of me.

It was because of him.

When I realised that, when I accepted that, it was a reminder that not everything, or probably even anything, that anybody else ever does is about me.

Think about the last time you were unkind to someone.

Was it because you don’t think people are kind to you? Was it because you didn’t want to be taken advantage of? Was it because you don’t think you deserve kindness and so you’re not going to give it to anybody else?

Was it about them or was it about you?


So maybe you’ll stop blaming other people for how they treat you.

Maybe you’ll forgive them.

And maybe you’ll forgive yourself for letting yourself be treated with anything less than you deserve.

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