Is there someone you just absolutely hate? Someone who either hurt you personally or hurt someone you love? Or maybe they’re part of a group and that group did something and so you hate them as a proxy for the group. An example would be Russians hating terrorist Ukrainians while Ukrainians hate terrorist Russians. It’s the hate that makes the terrorist.
When we hate another person we either hate them for something they have done or not done, or we hate them because we believe they are associated with people who have done or not-done things we feel are very significant. But this hate is not experienced by our enemies, it is an internal psychological experience that is ours and ours alone. The painful biting brain chemistry we feel as hurt, angry and hateful emotions are not coming from our enemy, they are from our thinking about our enemy. This is a damaging thing to do to ourselves.
Hate is when people fail to recognize the humanity in another person. A personal example would be when someone we love falls in love with someone else. We can perceive that they lack character, cheat and lie or have no morals. But from their perspective they unexpectedly fell in love while they were already dating someone. On a larger scale it’s like hating a good husband and dad and soccer coach, a guy who’s good friend to his buddies at work, all because he has on a different team’s jersey.
The reason any terrorist will attack it is because he feels his way of life is being threatened and he believes that threat is coming from who he or she is attacking. But that person can be a religious zealot from halfway around the world or he can be a libertarian who blows up a public building and kills his own citizens because he feels his government is now undermining his way of life.
Any person who is acting in a disrespectful way to others will eventually have resentments build until things boil over and get worse. And this goes for husbands and wives as much as corporations and countries. The problem isn’t the name of the person or group, it is that someone has lost touch with another person’s humanity and then begins to treat them inhumanely. It’s why a terrorist will strike and why a good person will condone the horrors of torture even though they may have the wrong person and in fact be committing the crime they claim they’re fighting against.
You cannot fight hate with hate. You cannot fight misunderstanding by informing someone with anger or violence. As much as these might be our immediate reactions we must allow ourselves to feel that pain without converting it into a cudgel to hit someone with. Instead we must meet hate with love. If we don’t, we are suggesting that we feel that love can lose in such a comparison. But that is only an underestimation of the power of love.
Hate has never overcome hate. But love is a natural state. Do not be an agent of hate. You will die wondering why you invested your life in such an unrewarding pursuit. Instead enact love in your life. You’ll do more good, keep more people safe and you’ll have more great chances at love than any other way. Just don’t let words and thoughts get in the way of seeing anyone’s humanity because whether we recognize it or not, it’s always there.
Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.