In a standard marathon, there are thousands of participants, from thousands of backgrounds, with thousands of stories to tell. In the early mornings of race day, they gather at the starting line, grouped together by their approximate pace, each person stretching, praying, pacing, dancing—anything that will prepare them for the journey they are about to embark on.
When I ran my marathon last year, I was surprised by the immediate kinship I felt with everyone around me at the starting line, even though we didn’t talk to one another, or even make more than a few seconds of eye contact. I felt bonded to them, like we were going into battle—because in a way, we were—and it’s easy to feel connected to people when you are working toward the same goal, and headed toward the same finish line.
The same cannot be said in every day life.
Oftentimes when you come into contact with someone in the day to day, you don’t know the path they are on, where they’ve come from, what they’ve experienced, or where they are hoping to go. For some, this is inviting, it’s an opportunity to meet someone new. For others this is intimidating, and a reason to feel self-conscious. And for too many, this is an excuse to jump to conclusions, pass judgment, and, ultimately, hate.
In a marathon setting, if your initial reaction towards one of your fellow runners was hate, it could keep you from making an ally that could inspire you, motivate you, and help you when things got hard. It could slow your progress, steal your focus, weaken your performance, and ultimately, ruin your race. And in real life, it will do the exact same thing.
We are not all running the same race, on the same course, at the same pace, with the same finish line, but we are all trying our best to keep moving. And when we hate, we give unwarranted obstacles not only to ourselves, but our fellow runners. We slow the progress of everyone when we decide we are more important, more valuable, or more worthy of getting to where we want to go than our fellow runners. We slow the progress of everyone when we don’t recognize our fellow runners as fellow individuals, fellow personalities, and fellow human beings, rather than a prejudged series of colors, shapes, sizes, uniforms or beliefs.
Running a marathon takes patience. Living a life takes patience. Forming relationships takes patience. And the quickest way to derail all of these is leaning into the ignorant and lazy habit of impatience. Of believing you already know what an experience will give you before you experience it, of assuming you know all that life has to offer before you live it, and of deciding you know who a person is before they have time to show you.
Romans 12:9-10 in the Bible says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”
So let us honor each individual. Let us love them for who they are and all they can offer the world. Let us hate what is wrong, but not mistake hate as a prize. For the goal is not to hate the quickest, the loudest, or the strongest, the goal is to right the wrong and starve hate all together. The goal is to not only hold tightly to the good that we know, but to reach out for the good we are working towards. The goal is for love and respect to be more prevalent and powerful than doubt and bias. The goal is for every runner to believe whole-heartedly that they deserve a place at the starting line and have the opportunity to reach their finish line. The goal is for a person to be a person, at first glance, at first instinct, no matter what, and for that person to know they are loved.