Watching the news would lead us to believe that hate and anger are a constant in the world today. (I know many people who no longer watch the news for exactly this reason.) There are stories of love and goodness out there, but they don’t get the same reaction. Sure, they make people smile and momentarily feel good, but they don’t elicit the desire to take action. The positive stories may be told to close friends, you may tap the like (or love) button on Facebook, you may even share some of them, but the stories about hate, well they bring out the activist in us all. Those are the stories that get shared, along with accompanying rants, over and over again. Those are the stories that cause people to get involved, to let people know what you think, to get angry about.
Hatred and anger spread faster than love. It shouldn’t be this way, but it seems to be easier than spreading good news. For some inexplicable reason, it is somehow more accepted to express negative feelings, but it shouldn’t be. We would all be happier without hatred in our lives. Look at the antonyms for hate: respect, praise, fondness, blessing, pleasure, kindness, happiness, friendship, delight, honor and of course, love. Aren’t these the things we want in our lives? Can’t we work to have them?
Letting go hatred and the feelings of anger that often accompany it is hard.
Loving our neighbors is sometimes hard. Like all habits, giving up something that has become ingrained is difficult and requires effort. But the rewards of doing so are great and the penalty for holding on to these feelings is harsh.
In the past, I have experienced hatred and realized I was suffering because of it. I noted that holding on to negativity made me feel worse, not better. I had good reasons for my anger: the words and behavior of someone I knew were hateful and mean-spirited. Not having another way to deal with it (and it being someone I could only ignore up to a point) I responded to this with anger and hatred. I knew I had a problem when I got to the point of wishing for evil outcomes. I took a hard look at myself and realized that hatred had made me someone I disliked. Hatred is evil. It makes one do and say things that are mean and hurtful. This is not who I wanted to be, so I made a decision: I was going to get rid of it.
When I had hatred in my life, I found that it tended to even creep into parts of my life that were unrelated to the actions or even the person that prompted the feeling. Finding joy became difficult. A darkness had crept into my life, without my even realizing it. I was unhappy.
Hatred is tough to give up. Once it has settled inside you, it sets up house and makes itself comfortable. It consumes your thoughts and emotions. It can in fact wield as much power as love does. Being nice and loving again is difficult. When you are justified in your anger, it is difficult to give it up, but I realized that fighting this emotion was necessary, for my own well being.
I thought it was too hard to do alone, so I prayed. For weeks, I asked God to help me rid myself of this hatred. I thought of hatred as a black spot on my soul. It was eating me away from the inside. I also recognized that I was being hurt more than the person I hated. What was worse, I was responsible for it all; I was doing this to myself. I know that prayer would not be the path to a solution for everyone, but it helped me. Logically speaking, I knew I had to let my feeling go, but I didn’t feel able to do it on my own, so I turned to the most powerful being I know.
Maybe you don’t have a strong faith. Maybe you have no faith. Yet putting aside how hatred harms your soul, you have to admit that it is also damaging physically. When you hate, your body is tense. Feelings of anger and anxiety often accompany hatred and both are frequently cited as being responsible for a number of physical ailments, including headaches, digestive problems, teeth grinding and muscle tension. It can cause you to lose sleep, which in turn can cause even more issues. It can make chronic health issues worse. Hatred also affects your relationships. When you are tense and anxious so much of the time, it is difficult for others to be around you. You are simply not fun. Your happiness diminishes as it has a tough time coexisting with hate.
Our hate-based actions tend to silence our conscience, to give ourselves license to behave badly, to act in a way that is harmful or destructive to others, in a physical or emotional way. As a result, everyone loses. When you hate, you lose a part of yourself. You lose a bit of the person you were. You may lose a relationship (which may then lead to the loss of another, and so on) and you may be so preoccupied with hating that you miss out on other opportunities for love.
Several years ago, I read a book about anger that suggested that persistent anger could be seen as giving another person control over you. There is some truth in this. Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” I would say that this is true of many other emotions as well. Hating someone is relinquishing control. Using up precious time and energy to be angry makes no sense. We get to choose what we use our emotional energy on, and sometimes we have to make tough choices. Hatred comes from within. It is something that we can learn to control and even eliminate in our lives. Many wise people have pointed out that the opposite of hate is not love, it is apathy or indifference. These feelings do less harm.
The current climate in society is doing nothing to improve our lives.
In fact, I would say that all the negativity is making our lives worse. Though it may look otherwise, we are not helpless, our fate is not determined. We can make a difference, if we choose to do so. We can choose to not hastily react to bad news, we can choose to not spread rumors, we can choose to look for the good in people and situations. Though we live in a world where the answer to most questions is “Google it,” we have to accept that we will not always get instant answers and sometimes we will not get answers at all. We cannot know all that is going on in someone else’s life, never mind what thoughts and feelings motivate their behaviors. We can stop and think before we act. We can pause before we judge. We can choose to act out of love and to give people the benefit of the doubt, rather than reacting to what we perceive to be another’s intentions. We can choose love over hate. Doing so will mean we all win.