THE BLOG
12/09/2015 09:18 am ET Updated Dec 09, 2016

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

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The line separating love from hatred is very thin, and feeling hurt can easily push us over.

Maybe you've hit a rough spot in a relationship, and you're teetering on the edge of losing the love. Perhaps a relationship ended and you feel betrayed, disappointed and angry. Or possibly, the relationship ended a long time ago but somehow continues to fester like an infected wound, producing toxins that contaminate your current happiness. It doesn't even have to be our relationship -- sometimes we champion another person's pain and attack those we hold responsible.

There are plenty of other scenarios, but these are common and human, and the intensity of emotions can be heightened in this Season. Maybe we're never so aware of what we still want or know we lost as when everyone else seems so happy? Or maybe its only now, as the days are almost done shortening that the forces of darkness push people from love to hate.

There are lots of problems associated with crossing the line. Without love, whatever caused the hurt feelings is likely to gain force and grow even more suffering. The landscape of hatred is petty, selfish and entitled. Its features easily mislead us so that we righteously say and do things we would have otherwise thought unthinkable.

And, then, we're really in trouble when we realize that we have to choose between investing in a version that incites further harmful actions, or accepting accountability and asking forgiveness. Many of us prefer entrenchment in our self-justified, albeit harmful interpretations, to humble acknowledgment of our wrongdoing. Courage is precious and in short supply, and shame can feel worse than anger. In the end, choosing anger simply increases the shame.

So what do you do when your significant other does something that makes you want to hate them? Or when your ex's actions suggest that love left a long time ago, leaving only angst and ugliness. How do you hold yourself with integrity so the blast of hatred doesn't level you and you don't embrace the temptation of retaliation? It takes gentleness and firmness, and a deep-rooted confidence in morality.

Seeking to inflict harm on others is never, ever justifiable as a goal. I'm not advocating passivity. Not at all. We have to stand up against bad behavior, at all levels, from the bedroom to the boardroom to the presidential campaign. We have to speak out against ugliness, hatred, intolerance, and vicious personal attacks, and we have to do so in a way that normalizes a culture in which such behaviors are not normative.

It is never right if a person you love, or a person you once loved, or even someone else somehow acting on their behalf, attacks you physically, verbally or spreads lies about you. It is always unpleasant and sometime unsafe. If you are in danger, physically or emotionally, you have to get help and take reasonable steps to protect yourself.

If you are not in danger, there are things you can do. Apply mindfulness so you know what's happening as its happening. Witness your feelings as you experience them, and observe whether they seem to push you across that line, to a place you never ever wanted to go? If so, redirect that energy so you don't feed the perpetrator's hunger for attention and validation. If not, nourish your goodness.

Mindfulness is a mental skill that hones attention on current moment experience, and deepens awareness of that focus simultaneously. It is guided by a moral compass that dedicates the sharpness of mind and acuity of perception to doing good in the world. With compassion, kindness, and empathy, mindfulness is a powerful tool that helps us to know exactly how we feel, here and now, so we can actively contribute to what comes next.

This world is full of loss, and pain, and every imaginable form of suffering. The line between love and hate is thin, and I don't know a single person who doesn't know this firsthand. None of use needs to cross over, even though pain seems to drive us toward hatred. The desire to hurt others only makes us suffer more. Don't follow it. Do bring light to the darkness.