How to Love Even When You Want to Kill (#824)

In my book Feel Happy Now!, I share the story of an uncomfortable realization I had when I was a teenager:

On a religious school trip to Israel at the age of 13, my classmates and I were taken to a place I have been told no longer exists in the midst of central Jerusalem called the Museum of the Future Holocaust. At the end of our tour of the horrors of racial hatred and anti-Semitism throughout the world, we were shown a film which focused on the continued presence and ongoing atrocities of hate groups within the United States, particularly focusing on the actions of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party.

By the time the museum ‘guide’ stopped the film to solicit our reactions, I was so angry, outraged, frightened and confused that I could barely speak. In time, I managed to choke out that if someone had walked into the room right then wearing a Nazi uniform or a white hood, I would have killed them on the spot using any means at my disposal.

What I remember most vividly was everyone’s calm reaction to my confession, as if that was the only sane response to what we had just seen. I had expected them to share in the horror of my startling realization – that I would have made a great Nazi. After all, if I could be persuaded to hate nameless, faceless groups of people on the basis of a one-hour propaganda film, then what could I have been persuaded to do if I had been exposed to teachings of hate and intolerance from the moment I was born?

Suddenly I was faced with a choice – to reject my uncomfortable realization that I too could fill up with hate and be taught to kill, or to reject my comfortable ideas of good and evil and begin to see the ‘enemy’ as unhappy, frightened human beings just like me whose ideas about good and evil had been shaped by the people around them, just like mine.

The question this insight raised in me was this:

How do you feel love and compassion for people you were brought up to hate? Harder still, what if they also really hate you?

In my search for answers, I was led to the work of a man named Bill Cumming. Having suffered violence in his own life through the rape of his 9 year old daughter, Bill had resolved to put an end to violence on the planet through his work.

When I began to work with him, I was pleased that his solution wasn’t based in a deep understanding of what made “them” broken, but rather what made me whole. It was my own potential for loving kindness in any situation and for uncovering the power within all human beings to make choices that make a positive difference that would bring about the well-being of the planet.

I thought I already knew that – but it became clear quite quickly that knowing it intellectually and realizing it insightfully were two fundamentally different things. I worked with Bill for 2 1/2 years and he has remained a friend and loving mentor to me and many of my friends, clients, and family members over the past decade.

While I have brought Bill in as a guest lecturer on many of my programs over the years, I am thrilled that he was asked to speak at a TedX event in Maine last month and the video of his talk is finally available to a wider audience.

If you would like to begin to explore the question of how to be a part of the solution to violence on the planet (or at the very least to no longer be a part of the problem), please take 15 minutes to watch Bill’s video and to share it with your community:

Bill Cumming

With all my love,


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