Hatred is Lethal: Part 7
Step 1 in Eradicating Hate - Separate Identity from Behavior
By now hopefully you’re well aware of how this series on Hatred has gone.
If we hold hatred in our heart--whether we feel it justified or not--we cannot contain its poisonous effects.
Eventually it contaminates our hearts, minds, and soul.
As I’ve been reflecting on all this, in addition to gaining great insights into the concept of hate, I’ve been forced to confront the ways in which I’ve harbored hatred in my own heart--specifically for Donald Trump. While part of me wants to wave it all away, or simply permit hate’s presence because (insert justification here ___________ ), the truth is I don’t want my insides to rot. I don’t want my soul poisoned by the toxicity of hatred.
To put it plainly: Harboring hate directly opposes the kind of life I want to live.
Therefore, in the next four posts I’ll be unpacking my Four Steps to Eliminating Hatred from Our Hearts.
The hope is to provide practices aimed at loosening hates grip on our hearts, isolating it from other emotions, and firmly but graciously showing it the exit.
Let’s get to it.
Step 1: Separate A Person’s Identify from Their Behavior
The first step in eliminating hatred from our hearts begins by distinguishing between the unchanging, unjudgeable identity of the person we harbor hate towards, with their particular actions or ideas that are stirring up the feelings of hatred within us.
I truly believe that all humans are worthy of dignity and respect. I believe all humans are, at their core essence, love.
However… at the same time…
all humans also posses what Francis Spufford refers to as H.P.T.F.T.U (Human Propensity to F*ck Things Up). We are all imperfect. We are all crippled by insecurity and hustling to find worth and value. We are all wounded in some way and react from places of fear and shame.
We all do and say things that hurt ourselves and others.
To state the concept plainly: There are humans, and then there are the things humans do.
And these are not the same.
A person’s identity is distinct from their actions/ideas/beliefs.
We Can’t Judge Identity
A couple years ago I delivered a message about judging, and my thesis was this:
There exists a Divine prohibition against judging anyone’s identity--for such a judgment is God and God’s alone (who, btw, declares that we are all good and beloved). However, we are welcome to, under the right circumstances, judge one another’s behaviors and ideas.
Working on that message helped me solidify a very important value for how I want to live my life. Since then, I’ve tried hard to be intentional about separating a person’s true identity (as a loved child of God) from the things they say, do, or think.
For example, if a person tells a lie, I try to think of it as, “They lied,” and not, “They are a liar.”
If someone was rude to me at the store, “They were rude,” not, “They are rude.”
If someone hurt my feelings or offended me, “They acted like a prick,” not, “They are a prick.”
You get the point.
According to my worldview I don’t have the right (nor the ability, frankly) to make a judgment about someone’s identity. God and God alone has all the information necessary for such judgments (and, to state it again, the conclusion God comes to? “They are my Beloved”)
Anytime I catch myself calling someone a name, or identifying them as their action or behavior, I do a quick reframe in my mind so that my energy is refocused on naming the specific action or behavior as the problem (or, more accurately, as the thing I don’t personally like).
This shift might feel small, but its implications are immense.
Making it Personal
To help me in this practice I often reflect on times when others have created such judgments about me and my identity, all the while firmly knowing that what they are saying is absolutely not who I am.
For example, I recall one time when I handled a conversation with a peer very poorly, resulting in the dissolution of our relationship. I discovered that they had then gone about the business of telling others that I was an abusive leader, arrogant, and unfit to be a pastor. In other words, they were making all sorts of claims about who I was. About my identity.
But I knew (and know) deep in my bones that that simply isn’t true. Whatever mistakes I made in our correspondence not only were extremely limited to that context and situation, and not only were dependent on a number of other factors beyond my control, but ultimately have no bearing on what is real or true about me.
Can I lead poorly sometimes? Absolutely.
Can I act arrogantly? You bet.
Do I sometimes do and say things that aren’t very “pastoraly” (however you might define that)? Of course.
But does any of that define me?
Reflecting on those times when others have judged me as a person (instead of judging my actions) helps ground me back in the space of how important it is that I don’t make the same mistake toward others.
Trump, You are a Loved Child of God
So here’s my practice for this first step in rooting out hatred from my heart.
I will repeat this mantra every time I am tempted to say or think something hateful toward Trump.
“Donald J Trump, you are a beloved child of God, worthy of dignity, respect, and love…
... some of the things you say and do are absolutely not okay. They hurt people. They threaten the well-being of our planet. They oppress vulnerable people. They allow the worst in people to not only come out, but be state-sanctioned. They are and perpetuate evil.”
(Notice I sad “some of the things.” More on that next week for Step 2)
Once I’ve honestly named the hatred in my heart (which I have), in order to begin rooting it out (which I want!), I must be mindful to separate the unchanging, unjudgeable identity of people as Loved Children of God from their particular actions, ideas, and behaviors that are stirring up feelings within me of disgust, offense, and injustice.
I’ll see you next week for the next step in eliminating hatred from our hearts.
Questions for You
Can you think of times when you’ve been judged as a person, rather than by your actions? How did that make you feel?
Have you done a practice similar to this before? Where you reframe your frustration with someone by clarifying it’s a thing they did, not a thing they are?