Choose Love, Not Hate… But How?
I am a fan of hashtags. One recent one is #Chooselovenothate. This is my response to the pain I see on social media and in the world around me. I look back at my life and am so thankful that I have found the ability to love in a way that is more than seems humanly possible, but in a world so full of hate, how do we choose love?
Think about someone you are close with that once got angry or mean in a really stressful time. It is understandable that when we are stressed or scared we start to protect ourselves and this comes out as anger or meanness, especially when it is a friend or family member. I had a wise friend once tell me that fear and sadness are the root of anger. I reflected on the anger that I hold within me, and I found this to be true. These are the two reasons why today I became very angry at people that I love very much, not because of who they are, but because of the fear and sadness I had within me.
A lot of my anger stems from my issues in the military. I was taught to fear situations that many who have not walked in my shoes would think are rather uneventful. I am very sad, still to this day and maybe forever, because I live in a world that has left its scars. It’s like a cold and warm front smashing in to each other in my head and anger erupts. There are scars everywhere in the lives of each person, some are deeper than others. Still, how in a world that appears so full of hate, how do we choose love?
Think again about the person who you are close with and that you know they were just having a bad day and trying to protect themselves. Imagine that every person in this world who shows anger, hate, dislike, or is mean is merely trying to protect themselves because they have a fear front that clashed with a sadness front.
Step 1: Remember that each person is dealing with a story inside themselves that we may not be allowed to read.
They are struggling with fears that may or may not be warranted. They may fear something they do not understand, don’t agree with, or that is terribly different from who they are. They may be very sad that they are confused, don’t understand, or do not agree with a situation. Maybe their pride, guilt, or shame gets thrown into the midst. Maybe they have a whole story going on inside them that you or I will never be able to understand. I said it twice for a reason.
Fear, Sadness, Anger, Pride, Guilt, Shame are all normal emotions. Just in case you didn’t hear, they are NORMAL emotions. It is when we allow them to take control that we start to spiral out of control and they become beasts that overwhelm us and cause us to behave in ways that hurt ourselves and others. They say misery loves company, and I only use this old quote because if you think about it, it is really true, about so many different emotions. Misery just happened to get the copyright on it.
Now think of yourself in a moment where you were angry or lashed out at people around you. Afterwards did you think about it? If you thought about it, did you wish you could have done something different? When I am angry, hateful, spiteful, or just plain mean I hear a voice deep in my heart and soul that is crying for me. For a long time in my life I didn’t care, I never heard this voice. As I began to reconnect with who I wanted to be in life I found that there was this voice hiding behind the shadows in my life. Some people call it a conscience, intuition, angel’s voice, or many other things, I just call her my Wild Woman. Once I started listening to what was going on inside me, I could not turn back.
Step Two: Start listening to the voice inside yourself that says positive things, and encourages love and happiness.
This means you have to start listening to yourself. It looks different for different people. Some people pray because the voice in themselves is God. Some people meditate in order to clear the mind. Some journal or create in order to understand themselves. You have to understand your own emotions in order to better understand others. It’s a practice, not a perfection, by the way. It also looks like whatever it looks like for you. Try different things to begin understanding your own emotions.
You won’t always like what you are hearing, but remind yourself that you are in control over what is going on inside you. The story that you may not share, is that story that you can control. You can throw it out, you can hold on to it, or you can take it and develop it into something more to be who you want to be. You see my last post? I didn’t let the darkness beat me, I found my voice. So can you! Take a leap of faith with me, you won’t even have to be on a 30ish foot pole like I was in this photo collage!
Step Three: Now that you are listening to yourself, tell yourself that you love you.
We are better equipped to love others when we love ourselves. Often anger and hate have little to do with the issue or with the person we lash out at, it has to do with us being unhappy with ourselves. Daily I practice this step, because it is really hard, and I don’t always remember I love myself. The great thing is that we have this Prefrontal Cortex that offers us reasoning (this can be altered in someone with PTSD or brain trauma, but dealing with that is a blog for a different day, maybe next week). So we can logically reason that since we feed, clothe, and provide sleep to our bodies that we actually do love ourselves, even if our emotions don’t jive with the statement. So use that reasoning and tell yourself that you love yourself. In the way that is right because you deserve to be loved, even if maybe you don’t like everything about yourself, you can still love yourself. So say it, go ahead, I’ll wait…
Step Four: Take that love you are practicing on yourself and practice it on others.
This means that you tell yourself you love other people, especially if they are making you want to lash out or are different from you, or make a mistake. You chose to read this article, you chose to pause and tell yourself you love yourself (or you chose not too and rolled your eyes instead!?!?), and you can choose to show love to others. In your head as you internally roll your eyes, remind yourself that you want to live in a world where you are loved no matter what. In order to live in a world like this you must give this love. When you are angry, people get angry back. When you show hate, you are shown hate in return. When you raise your voice the response is in a raised voice also. When you show love, you receive love. When you more easily forgive, you are more easily forgiven.
I have heard the argument that it is not easy to do, or that you can’t choose your emotions or sometimes even your behavior, but I will tell you right now… STOP. Stop telling yourself what you are not able to do anything. Stop being negative about your own abilities. I can sit here and I can tell you these four, seemingly simple steps, because I know that it is not easy at all and I know that it is not impossible. Some people practice a musical instrument, a fitness routine, or some other skill until they become the best that they want or can be. You probably have a practice that you have been practicing your whole life. So why not start this one too?
Step Five: Repeat as Needed
When you show love, you receive love.
At the core of each of us we want to be loved. This means loving others and loving ourselves. For some this comes easily, for some it comes hard, and for some of us we get lost in between and wander in our shadow. When we are stuck in our shadow and our own story we have a hard time seeing the light and the love that comes with it. Those who want to live in the shadows, they can’t see through it. If you made it this far, then know that you can and will succeed at this. Stories now and forever ago confirm that love is the greatest of all emotions and values in life. You have to journey to get there. I still am, and even on days like today that I want to lash out, instead I write and create and tell myself I love myself and I love others too much to choose hate. So today I choose love not hate. Will you join me in practicing? Will you choose love not hate?