Six Reasons to Ditch the Hate
“Holding anger is a poison…It eats you from inside…We think that by hating someone we hurt them…But hatred is a curved blade…and the harm we do to others…we also do to ourselves.”
– Mitch Albom
So I am a clinical therapist/social worker. My job is to help people with really complex family problems, or who are estranged from their families, find ways to move their lives forward. Interestingly, one of the emotions I bump into really often is “hatred”. Let me give you an example. Awhile back I was speaking to an elderly friend who told me that he hates his sister. In fact, he said, if his sister were to die, he wouldn’t care in the least. We were sitting in a cafe, near a couple of other people at the time, and I could see the shock on their faces. I imagine the shock not only related to the fact that he is an older man (82!), not only because he was expressing such strong emotion but especially because his feelings were directed toward a family member.
We are not supposed to dislike, let alone hate, family members and we sure aren’t meant to say that we do. It also might not feel so good knowing that family members think so negatively toward us either.
But it happens.
Why Not Hate?
We don’t get to control the way other people think, feel or even sometimes, behave toward us. We can, however, definitely control how we think, feel and behave. So let’s think about it a bit does it serve us to hate, even if the other person has been really horrible, abusive, or otherwise vile?
I haven’t found hatred a useful way of moving through things. In fact, when I really think about it I can come up with a few good reasons to let go of hating. I’ll share them with you.
1 — When I hate I may feel temporarily empowered or even energized, but across time it takes a lot of energy to hate. If you have ever sat with hatred, you will well know what an energy vampire it is. Hatred gets in the way of us doing and creating other things. When our energy is directed toward hatred, it cannot simultaneously focus on joy, love, caring, creating.
2- Hatred is attached to believing that the other person is only ever one dimensional — the one dimension we hate. In actual reality people are multi-dimensional. Though they may have behaved badly, maybe even done so over and again — that is not all they are or do.
Hatred is a one dimensional response to a multi-dimensional challenge.
3- I might not be right. I am usually pretty damn sure I am right before I get to hating, but the fact is, I can never know the whole story, or see the total picture. We are constrained not only by the ‘facts’ as we understand them, but also by the stories we tell ourselves (or others tell us) and the meanings that we make of them. Considering the vast limitations of our knowing, hatred is misguided at best.
4- I am not without guilt. I have made mistakes. I have treated others poorly. I have said and done things I am not at all proud of. I would deeply appreciate compassion; room to make amends, be something different, do something more. Does anyone deserve less than what I would hope for myself? How can I feel I deserve one thing, and yet refuse it to another person?
5 — We can never know what has brought another person to the place they are. I am not suggesting that anything excuses bad or abusive behavior — but I am saying just as we are products of our lived experiences, relationships, understandings, thoughts and feelings … so too are other people. There is a long line of events that lead to now, or then. If we could see them, we could perhaps develop compassion instead of hatred. The least we can do is assume there is more to the person and their behavior than we could ever know or imagine. It is the same in reverse for ourselves.
6- Hatred is a stain, a blot on the tapestry of relationship. We don’t only contaminate ourselves and our own lives with hatred — we very, very often spread it to other people. We share our opinions, understandings and stories along with the associated feelings — which leads to other people creating their own stories. In very short order hatred can burn out of control across a relationship or an entire family system.
It takes only one person with a match to start that fire. Will you allow that firebug to be you?
[You can find more of my work at www.e-stranged.com. See you there!]