Several weeks ago, I happily snapped a selfie of me wearing my “Make Love Great Again” hat, which I purchased for my 35th birthday.
I tagged Elephant Journal so they could repost my image at their leisure.
The intention behind that photo, as many of you can probably guess, was to voice that I believe our world and its inhabitants could all use a little more love and less hate, bullying, and trolling.
There was no political agenda or promoting of anything except sheer, unconditional L-O-V-E. It also felt good to know that my purchase went toward planting a new tree, because that’s another thing our world needs more of.
I had little to no expectations regarding the feedback the post would generate, except hopefully more sales of the hat, more people subscribing to Elephant Journal, and more folks getting on the love train revolution.
What happened though was that a slew of folks with a lot of anger and pain took it upon themselves to bash the photo, saying that I was promoting “white privilege” and “white policing,” and how dare Elephant post this image. People actually wanted them to take the post down immediately, along with stopping all sales of the hat.
Basically, what happened was the exact opposite of what Elephant Journal and myself represent.
My first reaction was to block the folks who posted on my personal Instagram account. Then I messaged Waylon Lewis, Elephant Journal‘s editor-in-chief, as I was feeling quite taken aback and hurt that a message of love with my smiling freckle face attached to it could bring out this type of reaction, especially when on my personal page (before Elephant‘s reposting) it garnered many “likes.”
Then I stepped back, did some meditating, and realized that the people spewing their hatred and anger were actually helping me recognize that I still had bits of a “victimhood mentality” lingering from years of bullying, abuse, neglect, and shaming that I experienced from an early age, even though I thought I was healed.
The first draft of this story was also framed by this “victimhood mentality” and coming from a defensive standpoint. I’m definitely glad I was given the option to revise my words, because I believe my message here can be of greater benefit to others.
When the first messages you received as a brand new human in the world were, “You were an accident,” “I wish you were a different gender,” and “You cried so much as a baby. I guess I should’ve held you more, but I love you,” you grow up with a warped perception of what love really looks, feels, and sounds like. These messages laid the foundation for the challenges that I’ve faced throughout my journey.
The nitty-gritty details are not what’s important. The fact that I’ve been able to come out alive and (mostly) well from these painful experiences and have relearned what it means to love myself, while also garnering so much love and compassion for the rest of humanity—yes, even for those who projected their deep-rooted pain and trauma onto me—is the most important lesson I could convey.
So I’m taking this opportunity to thank those who ridiculed that image. Without this uproar it might’ve taken me even longer to set free those broken bits of my former self that I was holding onto.
Thank you for helping me realize I don’t need to convince you, or anyone else, of the reasons why I promote love or how I can empathize with the millions of people who have suffered at the hands of their abusers, bullies, or tormentors and send them strength and courage that they too can live a different life—even if all seems lost at the moment. We all have the power of choice, whether we grasp that now or later in our journey.
Thank you for encouraging me to dive even deeper into my spiritual journey and learn more about the energetically sensitive and highly empathic being that I am and how I can better handle people who are afraid to embrace all the love and light that so many of us possess. All I’m risking is being judged and criticized by people who know me the least, therefore whose opinions mean very little to me.
Thank you for helping me stand even more strongly in my stance of promoting love. I send even more love and blessings your way and hope that someday your hearts can heal so that you learn how to truly love yourself and those around you. Because let’s face it, that’s where real change starts—deep within us where our most painful experiences lie.
Despite the hurtful actions, reactions, and words of others, the worst abuse that took place was that which I inflicted upon myself. And you know what? I’ve survived myself so far, so I can survive words being thrown at me by complete strangers. Sticks and stones folks, sticks and stones.
When we love ourselves fully and completely, we have no desire to criticize, belittle, shame, bully, neglect, or manipulate anyone. We choose to ask questions, start a dialogue, listen intently, live with integrity, and respectfully agree to disagree.
I want to use my time on Earth to uplift, inspire, and teach based on the experiences I’ve had in my life, be they difficult or enlightening. I want to continue to learn from and turn toward the challenging people and situations that I know I’ll always face, instead of reactively turning away and throwing up walls and moats. This all stems from the peace of my own heart, from my desire to love and embrace all beings—even myself when I am triggered and my ego needs a bit of grace and forgiveness too. And especially for the people whose pain is on full display, who can look at a simple message of love and generate only feelings of hatred.
Sure I still face adversity and challenging situations that I don’t always understand right off the bat—that’s a part of life. But the way I’m able to handle these situations—with grace, compassion, and love (most of the time)—is proof of how much healing I’ve been able to accomplish.
So thank you, I love you, and I hope in this lifetime you allow your heart to break wide open and heal so that you too can be of great benefit to loved ones and strangers alike, instead of perpetuating experiences of discord, hurt, and resentment.