On loving people we really don't like
The first time I met Rodillo*, I knew I couldn’t stand that guy. It was 2011, we’d been at Fort Benning for less than a week as my husband, Josh, was taking his place within the ranks of the 75th Ranger Regiment, and we were attending our very first Ranger Ball (which is like prom for grown-ups).
Rodillo was the first Ranger I ever met, besides Josh. He was practically a child, barely out of high school, and acted like he was the shizz-nizz. There we were at our elegant dining table on the outskirts of the ballroom, near the wall—you know, where the lower ranking couples sit—when Rodillo sat down next to Josh, and started talking trash about some higher ranking NCO. I remember saying to Josh later that night, “I do not like that guy.”
Sure enough, my instincts were on par, and Rodillo—now directly in charge of Josh—proceeded to make my husband’s first year in Regiment hell on earth. As a brand new private**, Josh had no voice at work. You’ve seen military flicks, right? So you know how that works. The only place safe for Josh to vent his frustrations was at home, with me. So he’d tell me all about things Rodillo did to torment him, like make horrible mistakes and blame them on Josh. Like having double standards and micromanaging Josh’s every move. And I’d say, “Josh, this guy sounds like a really insecure, broken, hurting person. Don't hate him; pray for him. Offer up the pain he causes you in prayer for him.”
Because my way of coping with the harsh new reality of our life was to dig deeper into Christian faith and spirituality. So that’s the kind of annoyingly righteous stuff my husband has to hear all the time as a result of becoming a Ranger.
Now, in recent news, Prince has died—in case you haven’t heard. My news feeds are filled with everyone’s grief and gratitude towards the Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly (and Currently) Known as Prince. What’s really hurting my heart the most, though, is that my news feeds are also filling up with jokes about being upset that Kanye West is still alive. These:
Look, I'll agree with anyone that this man is really difficult to like these days. But I am also genuinely concerned about him as a human being. Am I the only one who thinks he is suffering from legitimate psychosis right now? It's never okay to exploit someone's mental illness. And it’s partially our fault for giving him too much attention. Remember that time I wrote about celebrities making terrible gods? He's doing that!
In the Bible's famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says something along the lines of, "Sure, love your loved ones. But that’s easy! Anyone can do that! If you want to be a child of God, though, then what you're going to do differently is learn to love your enemies as well." (Paraphrasing Matt. 5:44)
I think this concept has something to do with having a relationship with a God who sees past fronts, down to what is really happening in the human soul. It has to do with learning to love like He loves.
I’ve been thinking about Rodillo a lot lately, mostly because our new Apple TV screensaver is a slideshow of pictures from our computer, and among them are pictures of him and Josh at that very first Ranger Ball. I never did see Rodillo again after that, because my gut was even more on point than I wanted it to be. He eventually ended up getting chaptered out of the Army, and about a year ago, took his own life at the age of 24.
Most of the time, when people act horribly, it has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with the pain in their lives. That’s why Jesus loved the people who spit on him, and mocked him, and killed him. Because He knew how to see past that, all the way to the reason why they behaved so terribly. There is always a reason. And Jesus knew He was the only One who could save them from themselves.
Rodillo's smiling face popped up on my screen again yesterday, his arm on Josh's shoulder, both of them decked-out in their fancy dress blues. On my laptop, I clicked away from my Kanye-mocking Facebook feed and googled Rodillo's obituary. It said nothing of suicide, or being chaptered out of the Army, or lying or having double-standards or micromanaging. It mostly just talked about his loved ones who survive him, his three tours to Afghanistan, a start-up business he poured himself into, where his ashes would be spread, and how we could participate in honoring his life.
I wonder, if we had known just how broken and hurting this young man truly was, if we had known that just a few years later he'd end his own life, would it have been easier to put our role in his life into perspective?
It's hard to say what might have changed. All I know for sure is that I was right not to like the guy at first, and every bit as right to love him anyway.
*His name wasn't really Rodillo. I made that up.
**Josh actually started as a Specialist, not a Private. But the standards of Regiment are so high that when you're new, you're a just a Private whether that's your actual rank or not.