“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James Baldwin
Sometimes I want to get so angry at the people who hate–the people who say awful things about others, who treat others horribly because somehow they have decided that another person or group actually deserves their hatred. I want to shake them and tell them to get a grip, or even tell them off for what I see as the ridiculousness of their hatred.
But if you listen to their words, if you look into their faces and their eyes, you see something rather remarkable: their hatred really has little to do with those other people, and much to do with their own fears. People who hate simply fear losing control in their lives, and rather than face that fear head-on, it is easier for them to divert their energies towards negative feelings towards others.
Hatred is almost always based on ignorance of the object of one’s hate. I can hate these people because of the ways that I think they are, or because of what I think they are doing. But what the people who hate do not understand is that their hatred is doing much more damage to themselves than it is to anyone else. In history we have had some times during which those who hate have caused disastrous things for others, Jesus of Nazareth, anti-Semitism, racism… to see hatred one need not look far. And in our everyday lives, the people who hate are keeping themselves from growth, acceptance, love, and peace of mind. For when we hate, there is no peace.
As James says, those people who hate are using their hatred as a diversion so that they can avoid dealing with other issues in their lives that are much more important to them–but potentially painful. Yet until that pain is dealt with, there is no moving past it–the hater makes sure to keep stuck in place, never moving forward, holding on to hatred like an anchor that keeps them in place in a stormy sea, while the calm of a safe haven is within sight.
Questions to consider:
Why is it that hatred is so often such an easy feeling to embrace?
What are your criteria for hating someone or something else? Have you actually established clear criteria?
When have you seen hatred accomplish something productive and positive?
For further thought:
I make it a practice to avoid hating anyone. If someone’s been guilty of despicable actions, especially toward me, I try to forget him or her. I used to follow a practice–somewhat contrived, I admit–to write the person’s name on a piece of scrap paper, drop it into the lowest drawer of my desk, and say to myself: “That finishes the incident, and so far as I’m concerned, that person.”
“The drawer became over the years a sort of private wastebasket for crumpled-up spite and discarded personalities. Besides, it seemed to be effective, and helped me avoid harboring useless black feelings.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower