Today we continue working through my Four Steps to Eliminating Hatred from our Hearts.
Last week, for the first step, I wrote about the need to separate a person’s identity from their behavior. May we learn to distinguish who they actually are (aka, a Loved Child of God) from the things they do that stir up those nasty hate feelings within.
As I see it, that has to be where we begin the process of rooting out the hate poisoning our souls. Seeing others for who they truly are: fellow humans worthy of dignity and respect.
No child deserves to be hated, and that includes child(s) of God.
Not Defined by Merely a Part
In this post I’ll explore the next step: Accept that a person is not defined by a portion of their actions.
As we work toward rooting out hate from our hearts, I think the goal is to replace it with something more life giving such as compassion, grace, and/or love.
Therefore, part of what I find helpful in that aim is to constantly remind myself that a person cannot be defined by the worst things they do, nor by the most recent (bad) thing they’ve done.
If last week was about separating identity from actions, today is about trying to remember that the actions you find objectionable about Enemy So-and-So are not the end-all be-all of who they are.
Only Some of the Things
My last post concluded with the mantra I’m trying to recite each time I’m tempted to stoke my hatred of Trump.
It includes the phrase,
“some of the things you say and do are absolutely not okay,”
and I made a note about my usage of the word “some.” Because the truth is, I am only exposed to a small fraction of the things he says and does. I must be intellectually honest about this. Furthermore, of that small fraction, even that gets edited down further by the left-leaning news outlets I most engage with. As a result, the perception I have is that every word he says is awful, and he only says awful things all day long.
Now, I know that is not true. It can’t be true. And I know that you know that the people/person you hate doesn’t do/say the things you hate all day every day.
I get it. It feels like this. But I need us to challenge/question that feeling. As Byron Katie would ask it: Is it true? Is it really true?
In pursuit of further self-reflection and self-honesty, it’s highly likely that this perception I have of Trump (the one that says he only, ever says/does awful things) is far more powerful in how it impacts my thinking than the reality that I know has to exist.
In other words, while I might know, deep down, there’s no way he says and does awful things 24/7, I still end up feeling that way.
And this is a problem, as it will only ever serve to fuel the justification for hatred that I wrote about in Part 3.
They Do Non-Horrible Things as Well, Right?
One of the solutions is to remind myself that throughout the day he (Trump) does and says things that maybe aren’t the worst things in the world. Right? I mean, this has to be true. I’m sure he is probably kind to (some) strangers. He probably says decent things to people he likes. He might even be thoughtful and caring at times, right?
I feel some of you pulling back a little... maybe afraid of humanizing him too much, because then it might feel like we’d be letting him off the hook for all the evil he’s perpetuated and permitted.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
We can--and must!--continue to fight against evil and injustice. Yet, as I’m trying to work through in this series, might it be possible to do so while also not allowing hatred to setup residency inside us, where its only goal is destruction?
This sort of tension-holding, this kind of Jesus-y posture, is what I’m banking on.
I’m Not 100% Hate-able
Like I did last week, I will often run a mental exercise of personalizing something. In this case it might sound like: Could someone put together a highlight reel of some of the worst things I have said and done? And would this highlight reel make me look like a horrible monster?
Yes. Of Course.
But would it actually represent me?
No, of course not.
It is only a portion of who I am.
Granted, I’d like to think that such a portion is a relatively small fraction of who I am most of the time. Whereas, the story I tell myself, is that such a portion of hate-able things represents a much larger percentage of the people I hate. And sure, maybe, if one could quantify such things, that might be the case. But what would be the purpose in that? Are we really going to start handing out cookies for being, what, a horrible person only less than 10% of the time? 15%? 5%? Where’s the line on how much is too much, and who gets to determine it?
For me, the deeper reality is this: when I can separate a person’s identity from their actions/beliefs that I object to, then I can also be intentional to remember that they are so much more than just the things that I personally can’t stand.
Which leads me to another point I want to make in this post.
One Person’s Enemy is Another Person’s Friend
A number of years ago a working relationship of mine grew very sour. Someone I used to admire became some I couldn’t stand (don’t worry, the feeling was mutual). In my mind, my experiences with this person and my assessments of their character were objective. They simply were this type of person who did those types of things. For me, there was no wiggle room. If people didn’t see it, it’s just that they didn’t see it yet.
“Just wait,” I’d say in an empty room, to no one in particular, “eventually you’ll see them for who they really are.”
What I couldn’t understand or appreciate was that my experience with them was my experience with them (even if, yes, I also knew others who had similar experiences, thus reinforcing my belief in my reality as objective). While it was true that I found this person to be toxic and unsafe, it was equally true that people experienced them as kind and safe.
Who was I to try and tell them they were wrong?
My point is, the people we harbor hate for, those we’ve deemed our enemies, odds are they are not universally seen and experienced as a hate-worthy person. Odds are there are many people in their life who feel wildly different about them than you do.
Just as, in my life, there are many people who find me safe, open, and caring... while there are also those who would insist I am anything but.
If I want to eliminate hatred from my heart, an important step is to remember that:
people are not defined by their worst moments,
they are more than just the things you can’t stand about them, and
odds are that there are plenty of (sane and reasonable) people who feel opposite of you.
Hopefully, holding these truths in our minds will help to loosen hate’s grip on our hearts.
See you next week for the third step in this process: Seek to Understand.
Questions for You
What does it feel like to think about a person you hate (or have hated) and then attempt to grant that they are also full of actions, behaviors, and ideas that maybe are not hate-able?
What’s it like for you to consider that a person you call “enemy” someone else calls “friend?”