Hate is a Strong Word

I have lived in this world for 33 years, and I would consider myself an above average observer of human behaviors, and likewise of my abilities to be introspective and self-critical/self-correcting, especially when it comes to my default tendencies towards negative, or hateful thoughts. I have worked hard in recent years specifically to reduce the brain-space I give to negative and counterproductive thoughts, and if in the even more rare situation, I actually find myself hating anything, I step back and seek to understand, or at the very least use my imagination to come up with any possible reason why that person may not be worthy of my hatred, or why it might not be worth my time to waste my time thinking negatively about them. (Like the man that recklessly cuts me off with his SUV and speeds past me — he just might have a wife going into labor – so on my best days, I give him a pass).

I actually have my ex-girlfriend to thank for this evolution. When I began dating her I would use the verb “hate” too often in hyperbole to describe a person, thing, or concept that I wasn’t a big fan of. She would always chime in: “Hate’s a strong word, don’t you think?” She was right. When you take the time to think about it, there’s very little that you justifiably and without exaggeration, actually hate. I still benefit from her words, always challenging myself to find a better way to describe how I feel about something rather than cop-out to “hate”.

In these past few years, I’ve actually found there are specific times when I’m most likely to focus on the negative and when I’m most likely to lash out at those that really didn’t deserve it:

  • When I’m sleep deprived, dehydrated, or hungry.
  • When a relationship that I care deeply about and am invested in is strained or lost. This can be a significant other, a parent, a child, a boss, colleague, or good friend.
  • When the DMV, or another inept bureaucratic body messes up my drivers license, or other pertinent document.
  • And, when someone has ignorantly and wrongly verbally attacked a strongly held belief of mine and persists in an onslaught of negative bashing and slandering.

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The shooting last night at the “free speech” rally in Texas, that included potentially/presumptively two groups that I would categorize as attracting the most negative of negative thinkers. These are actually people who have gotten great at hate.

The Mohammed Cartoonist competition organizers: They actually took a serious amount of time out of their lives to set up and attend an event for the sole purpose of spreading hate and focusing on making a negative, antagonistic, hateful contribution to the world. Imagine if they had instead put their attentions towards their most positive of thoughts, ignoring the religious rhetoric of an extremist religious group, and instead drew cartoons that made people laugh in good humor at no one’s expense, that made people come together with true joy, or alternatively, if they just looked for opportunities to demonstrate positive ways to live as an alternative to joining an extremist group — and by doing so elevated each other to a happier mindsets, more purposeful lives, and more positive world views.

The Shooters: These two individuals, assuming they showed up to seek retribution against someone who decided to hate on their religion, are so much like the ones they were out to kill — insomuch as they too focused on the worst of what they saw in their fellow man and pursued those thoughts to the extent of an action that thankfully didn’t kill anyone, but still sadly harmed another human being, and led to their own demise. Many will say they got what was coming to them. I would say they focused on that negative line of thought and pursued it to a fatal outcome.

Freedom of speech is everyone’s right and this post is not an argument over what should be legal and what shouldn’t be. If it was, I would strongly defend my fellow American’s legal right to assemble peacefully and draw, say, or write whatever it is they feel compelled to, however mean and hateful it may be.

And of course, I will never condone and act of violence such as the one carried out by these two individuals last night.

My point simple: The two men, and the convention full of people — all in the same — woke up yesterday morning and chose to focus their time and energies on hate. To focus on, and cultivate the worst they saw out in the world, rather than the best. And while again, they have every right to think and even say whatever they want, it’s my hope they wake up tomorrow and everyday forward, and instead of going deeper down the spiral of hate and vindictive righteousness in the wake of the events of last night, (in addition to and compounded by the events that have been in the public consciousness in recent weeks – even years and decades), and that they instead reach for higher ground, for a place where they can eventually find their own peace and happiness while also facilitating it for those around them.

With the infinite number of sad, hateful, atrocious pieces of news and views out there, you can always find someone or something to scapegoat for your bad day, a narrative to fit your negative outlook, or a person or group to blame for your lot in life. You can by default, always find a reason to get wound up by negativity.

We wake up every morning with a choice. For many of us (including me, I will admit) the default is sadly negative, but we still all have the ability to consciously choose to focus on the positive. Let’s not waste our precious time on earth thinking negatively, or worse, hating anything.

Hate is a strong word… so let’s make it a bit weaker through conscious and deliberate practice of love, compassion, understanding, and critical thought.

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