Chris Heath (2017)

Love, Not Hate

The word “hate” is thrown around fairly often, and we use it too lightly. “Hate” should be reserved for only the most unacceptable human behaviors, like violence and prejudice. Frequently a failure to understand and accept our differences is behind this misplaced hate. Many of us say we hate people that we don’t understand. Others say we hate people who frustrate us with their behavior. This causes hate toward that person, or that type of person, even though they are often simply normal people dealing with their own weaknesses and fears just like everyone else. However, we don’t really hate these people. Maybe they are dealing with those weaknesses and fears much differently than we think they should, but it’s a far better idea to try to understand and sympathize with them, rather than hate them. In fact, a strategy of love and positivity is always the better path than the path of hate and negativity.

For a long time there were a few types of people that I thought I hated. We all have encountered at least one of them in our lives: the bragger, the pushover, the perfectionist, the selfie queen, the crazy girl, just to name a few. At times in my life I have been that person who is misunderstood and have experienced first-hand how a misunderstanding can get out of hand and eventually turn into hatred. Sometimes I didn’t even know that my behavior was frustrating others until much later or until it was too late and the damage was already done.

I’ve been called a pushover many times in the past. It’s not because I try to avoid conflict, which is true, but because I have patience tolerance and understanding in spades. When my friends see me giving in to someone else’s demands or letting something slide that they would never stand for it really frustrates them. They see it as me letting myself get bossed around or not standing up for myself when someone is being out of line. That frustrates them and later I will hear about it and have to explain myself. I tell my friends who think I’m being a pushover how I refuse to let someone else’s poor mood, bad attitude, or general negativity infect me. When my friend is truly upset about the situation I will tell them to reflect upon how they have been infected by that negativity. I thank them and tell them that I appreciate their display of friendship by taking offense to someone treating me poorly. Then I tell them that I’m fine and only now care about the whole experience because it has affected them negatively. In extreme cases I will have to let them know that now I am concerned about their mental state because they are focusing on the negative, and while it’s for good reason, they are actually doing themselves harm by giving negativity safe harbor and fostering an environment – their mind – where that negative energy can flourish.

Nobody likes a bragger. They’re always going on and on about themselves trying to charm everyone and appear as if they have it all figured out. That said, I have come to the realization that braggers deserve love, not hate. I have found that the serial braggers are just insecure about their lives. Each time they brag it is a plea for acceptance and affirmation of their self-worth. When we respond to braggers with hate it just continues the cycle of their misguided attempts at acceptance. When we respond to braggers with love they might feel a little more confident about themselves and begin to feel less need to behave that way. Eventually they will have more confidence in themselves and not feel the need to brag and boast as a way to get affirmation of their self-worth.

I can also relate to the perfectionist type because depending on the situation I can be an anal retentive OCD freak about the details. Sometimes I can’t just “go with the flow” and I can’t let something be when it’s not correct and I know that I can make it correct. I constantly have to fight myself to loosen up, but sometimes I just can’t let something go without giving it my best and making sure that it’s done right. This side of my persona is sometimes reacted to negatively or with hate but my true friends admire my attention to detail and my tenacity for correctness. They appreciate that I am always trying to perform to the best of my abilities, even if it sometimes annoys them. When we respond to the perfectionist with love instead of hate we show them respect by giving them confirmation that their passion is a valid and positive trait not something to be derided.

Sports seem to evoke hate from people in a few ways that I find totally unproductive and self-detrimental. I have seen many people tied up in knots and fully engulfed in fits of rage due to sports. I think it is amazing that sports can have such a powerful effect on us, but when we take it as far as hating a player, a team, or another sports fan we have gone too far. Sports have such a great power in their ability to bring people together and be a positive force in society that I get frustrated and sadden when I see someone who has taken their love of sports and turned it into hatred of others. Fans of sports teams are very tribal and while that is a good thing for a community. It fosters pride, camaraderie, and the feeling of security by belonging to a group. Sometimes it can go too far and become a problem for not just sports fans but society as a whole. For instance, soccer hooligans forming gangs and fighting their rival team’s hooligan gangs is one of the most egregious and vile manifestations of how all the positive things about sports can get taken too far. We shouldn’t hate the other team or the fans of the other team. We can dislike them and we can hope that they lose, but hate is just too strong and there is no place in sports for hate.

There are a few common cognitive distortions and mind tricks that we play on ourselves without knowing it that make it a little too easy to go overboard with dislike and take it to hate when we really shouldn’t. Polarized thinking is one of them. When there is no middle ground and everything is a black-and-white issue we tend to fail to see the complexity of a situation or leave any wiggle room for other people’s perspectives. I have to constantly remind myself that there are gray areas in every situation and fight off the urge to simplify everything into black or white categories. Blaming is another one of these mind tricks we play on ourselves that has nothing positive about it at all. When we hold other people responsible for our pain we fail to take ownership of our own actions and feelings. It happens all too often. When we forget that we have control over our emotions we lend ourselves to hate others because we are blaming them when we should instead be looking inward. I used to do this a lot when I was younger. I would always have an excuse for my failures that didn’t have anything to do with me at all. Eventually I saw how it was causing me to dislike and even hate other people when it was really my self-disappointment and that these other people were not responsible at all for my problems.

Energy spent being negative and focusing on hate is wasted energy. It is also a sign of poor time management. We all make conscious and subconscious time management decisions all day every day. Not only are we managing our time throughout the day but, we are also deciding how much energy and focus to expend in each moment of time throughout the day. When we allow ourselves to waste our time and energy focusing on hate we begin to trap ourselves in the never ending downward spiral of negativity. That negativity has nothing positive to add to our lives and only serves as a temporary fix to whatever it is that ails us. The time that we spend on negativity has forever been lost. That energy has been spent and cannot be reclaimed or used again. In the past I have fallen for the negativity trap, but I learned quickly that it was stealing my time and energy.

It is easy and simple to be negative, but negativity just breeds more negativity and causes things like hate. Being positive and finding reasons to love people instead of hate them is not easy, but positivity has many byproducts that are worth the effort. Whenever I start to feel negative emotions and have negative thoughts I remind myself of the benefits of positivity and how negativity ruins my chances to have meaningful, constructive and rewarding things in my life. I try to be constantly aware of these time management decisions and how much energy I focus on things. I take care to be aware of these choices so that I make them consciously and I can account for my decisions and choices later. When I don’t continually monitor and acknowledge my decisions and actions I lose sight and control over who I am and the kind of life I want to live.

There are myriad reasons to give up on hate. Too often we use the word hate when we should have used another word to better express ourselves. Beyond the lazy vocabulary problem there are real problems with hate in our society and culture that are often self-inflicted and totally avoidable. In order to hate someone else we have to harbor that hate within ourselves and eventually over time we begin to hate ourselves. Holding onto hate makes us feel like a bad or evil person. The good news is that overcoming hatred is a testament of character. There is always a silver lining in even the most painful experience and the lesson to be learned can often be very powerful. Forgiveness and letting go of the pain of the past is central to moving forward and beginning to love more than hate.