One day late last winter, while leaving the Summit House to head out onto the hill, I noticed a pair of skis stuck in the snow next to mine. They were covered in stickers, but the one that stuck out the most read “I Haters”.
Why would anyone love haters? I wondered as I skied away. Perhaps it was a joke. Or maybe the owner of the skis was a hater himself (or herself, whichever the case may be). According to Urban Dictionary, a hater is,
A person that simply cannot be happy for another person’s success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person.
Hating, the result of being a hater, is not exactly jealousy. The hater doesn’t really want to be the person he or she hates, rather the hater wants to knock someone else down a notch.
I kept thinking about that sticker, and why someone would put it one their skis. It’s the equivalent of saying I Jealousy, or Bigotry, or Racism. The more I thought about it, the more I changed my mind. Perhaps loving haters is the answer! Maybe it’s like a zen koan, meant to make you think, meant to tell the world, “go ahead and hate me, it won’t change my opinion of myself.” Could be that the skier was at once confident but not cocky, willing to be open to even the most vile comments from others.
I’ll never know.
The more we put ourselves out there, the more we open ourselves to detractors. The sticker skier might have simply been spreading his arms open to whatever the world offered. That would have been very big of him.
Last week I wrote a post titled How to Beg Forgiveness from a Ski Patroller. Many of you commented, finding the post funny (as it was intended) and even informative (which it really wasn’t meant to be). A small few, however, hated it. I mean, they REALLY hated it. And hated me.
The article was quite popular, linked to numerously and pretty much went viral. You can go back and read the comments, if you like. I will say only one thing in defense of the article. It wasn’t written as a manifesto for “ass-kissing”. Those of you that know me or have been following along for a while know that I would never expect or even want someone to kiss my ass because I’m a ski patroller. Follow the rules, yes. Kiss my ass, no.
Several readers emailed me after they read the latest comments, telling me I should delete them. They didn’t have a place on my personal blog.
I thought about it.
I’ve written before about the importance of public discourse, using one’s real name on the web, and treating others with respect. Besides that, the attitudes expressed were, sadly, not uncommon enough at ski areas. So I left them up.
Perhaps haters can teach us something. I’ve preached about building a tolerance for adversity. What could be more adversarial than personal attacks on your own website? I don’t have to take it personally. I don’t have to tap off a nasty response, citing all the reasons why I’m right and they’re wrong. That’s just childish.
Soon I will write another post over at blogcrystal about why and how we keep terrain at Crystal closed. I’ve written about this before, but a refresher never hurts. I will keep these new blog readers in mind when doing so. Because in order to be fully open and offer up support for our actions on the patrol I need to remember that not everyone agrees with me.
I’ve learned something about negativity. It can get to a person. As a writer, words gather just under my skin, merely fragile wisps of smoke waiting to burn, and a single puff of wind from the wrong direction can blow it out. Negative feedback can affect a person’s performance in other ways too. Entire engines of enthusiasm can be stopped by a single detractor.
Staying strong in the face of negativity isn’t easy. It’s tempting to gather friends and supporters around me like a blanket, bring them up to my chin and wait for the world to change. And while this kind of support can be helpful, it doesn’t always offer us opportunities to learn. Looking hard at ourselves and where we fit in the world is an action only we can take.
I’ve chosen to be open and vulnerable. I write about my life and my job and everything that I love on a blog and blast it out to the world. I wrote a book about it, for heaven’s sake. My mom would call this “character-building”, and she’s right. I call it building up a tolerance for adversity.
What do you call it?