How to deal with hate

Mindful ways to navigate complex times

There are disturbing things in the news, — examples of hate growing — this has implications for all of us and for the next generations. This post is about one thing — how to bring forth, in the word of Abraham Lincoln, the better angels of our nature. There are 2 levels of this — first seek to understand to be understood, and the other is decide what you stand for and choose how you will deal with this

  1. Look at the Root Causes: There is generational unresolved wounding that’s been passed down into expressions of hatred. Understand that there’s a level of shame which turns to rage. This is a culture that derives its sense of self-worth from protecting and providing for the family. Today, things aren’t the way they “should be:” someone who feels he should be the strong male taking care of his own, may not have the economic resources, opportunities that come from education, or even know a way out — he’s feeling trapped and angry. There’s a story of one young teen who joined these groups when his parents were working fourteen hour days, and he just wanted to belong to something. There are many reasons, but across the board, it’s hard when people do not feel seen, or heard or that their issues matter — we get that. But no matter one’s circumstances, when the tactic used is bullying and inciting fear and chaos, that’s not OK. So, what do you do if you see hate all around you?
  2. Practice Discernment and Stand Strong: Any bully wins if they have us all in a state of fear. We know that emotions are contagious; fear incites fear. And it’s natural, this is shocking and horrific… but that does not mean that we have to succumb to fear. There are times in history when righteous anger has a place. Think of MLK, Gandhi, the suffragettes. Do not let bullies make you cower. Why? Because in effect, by doing so, you are giving them your power. When you see a mountain lion, what they tell you is to you position yourself as large as possible; you demonstrate strength, not fear; and you make noise. This is the time to use your voice, and get people together. Look at the facts, look at the numbers — there are so many more individuals on the side of holding higher values. This is the time to bring people together, and draw a line. Not on my watch — hate stops here.
  3. Manage Your State: when you are able to channel your anger, or even fear and keep your calm, you can be more effective. That’s powerful. So manage your state. If you see you’re getting whipped into an emotional frenzy, (and it’s easy to get swept up into the chaos), find a way to come back to yourself. You may want to disengage, breathe, talk to a friend, do a kickboxing class, yoga, meditate — whatever it is for you to help you manage your emotional state — do it. What practices help you when you get flooded with emotion?
  4. Don’t allow yourself to get unhinged, or match violence with the same. Gandhi said, “ An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” People who are into creating chaos and fear and rage want you to match that energy, they want to wind you up, to provoke physical fighting — that’s a win for them. So it’s OK to be angry, but remember who you are and what you stand for and to be non-violent within that state. “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.” -Martin Luther King
  5. Be an example of someone who is inclusive, who looks beneath the surface to the soul of people, and who knows that we ALL want to be loved and to belong. You have more influence than you know on the people around you: your friends, family and your children — they learn what they see. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
  6. The Circle Game: At Project Happiness, we were invited to go to a small country that suffers a lot of division: 6 predominant races, and a history of heartache. Our mission was to work with more than 60 teachers and members of the Ministry of Education to give them ways to create a more positive environment. Using an exercise called “enter the circle,” we had everyone stand in a large circle and invited people to step into the circle “if you enjoy dancing,” or come into the circle “if you have loved a pet.” We escalated the questions to: step inside “if you have lost a loved one,” and the last question was to enter “if you’ve been discriminated against for your sexual preference, education, or your race.” A hush that came over the room as people realized that virtually every single person was inside the circle; proof that our similarities outweigh our differences. That’s something we teach in the Project Happiness curriculum, serving kids in every state and many countries. What better time to plant the seeds of empathy and hope for the next generation…
  7. It starts with you: It is overwhelming if you try to fix the whole world. You can however, in your own little part of it, create a space of communication between two opposing sides. If you come across someone who is different than you, or if they are alone, what if you made an effort to talk with them, to find commonalities, to show a little kindness, to spend some time together? We unconsciously default to labels, “us” and “them.” The whole issue is that we dehumanize people… and that’s when racism can grow. The good news is that we can put a stop to that. Not everyone in a certain group is a jerk. If we have these individual conversations, that can actually provide proof in our own lives. We discover that that we have the power to bring a smile to someone’s face, to look at we have in common, to sow the seeds of positive change. We all have a choice — do I go forward and get swept up at the level of hatred and chaos, or do I hold my space and stand for something better. The invitation here is to be a warrior, but a warrior of love, justice and freedom. That’s the antidote to hate — that’s real power.