Hopefully, you answered no one! However, life today seems littered with hate-inspired rhetoric, whether over matters politic, economic or just plain personal. I've even heard "I hate" used by one internal corporate group denouncing another internal group or team. Going well beyond the juvenile "I hate you" when you don't get your way, some people really do seem to live in the veiled spectrum of negativity called hate.
Assuming you may have noticed the increasingly vitriolic and venomous rhetoric spewed by people who have moved from disagreement to disagreeableness to downright nastiness, perhaps it would be useful to take a look at hatred and what it means to hate. If you have been reading these Self-Talk to Soul-Talk posts over the past year, you will already know my basic premise: Hate or virtually any other form of negative thinking stems from your Self-Talk, not your Soul-Talk. Your Self-Talk has been misinformed by limiting beliefs, negative experiences and, ultimately, by your fears and an underlying misunderstanding of your own life circumstances.
Freud thought that hate was an ego state seeking to destroy the source of its unhappiness. Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas considered hate to be "sinful" in that the act of hating confused the action or object of hatred with the person performing the act. Aquinas, writing in Summa Theologica, laid out a course of reasoning that has been summarized in today's simplified version of "hating the sin but not the sinner." René Descartes held that hatred stemmed from becoming aware that something was bad coupled with an overwhelming desire to withdraw from it.
However you define hatred or the act of hating, it can't be very good for you to indulge yourself in those kinds of feelings. As noted in an earlier post, persisting in most any of these kinds of negative emotions are tantamount to drinking your own poison, hoping the other person will die.
Do You Really Know the Person You Hate?
While Abraham Lincoln may not have addressed hatred directly, I think he pointed the way to overcoming its misguided focus in two simple but elegant quotes: "If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will" coupled with "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better." My spiritual teacher, John-Roger, put it this way: "If you could know the pain of your worst enemy, you would never hold another thing against him."
In today's always-connected-but-never-really-connecting world of texts, tweets and sound bites, we seem to become further separated from one another rather than more intimately connected. Taking the time to really get to know someone else seems to be an increasingly lost art. Too often we settle for knowing something about the person, rather than actually getting to know the person he really is inside. Knowing about someone rather than the deeper person inside opens the door to our Self-Talk deciding for us who the other person is based on nothing more than a combination of our fears and our interpretations or perceptions of their behavior.
Martin Luther King put it quite eloquently in his landmark book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story:
Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.
How do we break down the separations that have become seemingly-impossible chasms between people? How do we reconcile differences without having to resort to invective and recrimination? How can invective or recrimination actually lead to any sort of reconciliation, cooperation or mutual gain?
Are You Looking for the Bad in People?
Let's make this personal. If you find yourself hating someone you actually know, rather than some caricature of the person, then consider whether you have spent any real time getting to know the person underneath the behavior. More than likely, you may have to acknowledge that you have been behaving more like the first Lincoln quote cited here, "If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will," and not so much following the wisdom of the second quote, "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better."
Dr. King offered incredibly wise counsel when he said in his famous speech, "Where Do We Go From Here":
Darkness cannot put out darkness: only light can do that...
I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems. And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn't popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I'm not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I'm talking about a strong, demanding love ... I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love.
He also went on to say: "Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
A Personal Challenge
How can you contribute to the lofty yet practical aspirations contained within the messages of Dr. King and President Lincoln? While you may not have much direct impact on the world of politics and the economy, how about in the world of your friends, acquaintances and everyday life?
Can you imagine adopting the kind of interested and loving inquiry advocated by President Lincoln and Dr. King? What might happen if your circle of friends, acquaintances and colleagues were to likewise adopt loving inquiry, even if only for a week or even for a day? What difference can you imagine taking place even if it were only you?
The challenge: take it upon yourself this week to start your own one-person campaign of loving inquiry, discarding at least for this week or simply for a day the tendency to judge and condemn the other. What would you have to lose if you were to approach someone genuinely seeking to understand how the conflict or disagreement appears to them? What might you have to gain?
Surely this challenge will present itself to me this week, just as it will present itself to you. The only question: Are you and I willing to accept the challenge? Let's see what happens! I accept -- how about you?
I would love to hear from you so please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.