Hatred is Lethal: Part 9
Step 3 in Eliminating Hate: Seek to Understand
So you’ve found the humility to name the hate that exists in your heart, and you’ve mustered the courage to confront it with intention to root it out (because, as by now we’ve well established, hatred is lethal)...
Now we make a plan.
Now we engage with practices.
Now we do the actual work (which it takes... work... this stuff will not go away on its own) of eliminating the poison of hate and replacing it with the life-giving stuff of compassion, kindness, mercy, and love.
Step 3 of 4 in Eliminating Hatred from our Hearts
I’m working on four steps to eliminating hatred in my own life. I offer it here to you in the event you too need some help with this stuff.
The process begins with Step 1 where we distinguish between a person’s identity (which has already been declared by God to be “good”, so hands off) with their actions/behavior/ideas/etc., which are all things we are within our rights to “judge.” Or at least, if not judge, then feel free to have opinions and convictions about.
(Note: I suggest we be slow to judge because, honestly, even that might be way beyond our pay grade. First, you have to get the plank out of your own eye--not easy--and then you have to have enough insight and gumption and wisdom to cast a judgement. Yeah, I dunno know if I’m cut out for that work. Do you?)
Then last week I shared Step 2 which is all about gaining perspective. Appreciating (or, at the very least, acknowledging) that a person is more than just what you know/see about them, more than just the things they do that you can’t stand, and more than just how you experience them.
Full disclosure: I didn’t like last week’s article. Truly. It was/is discomforting. I much prefer, for example, keeping Trump in the one-dimensional caricature I have of him. Where he is only ever awful all the time.
But I’m convinced doing that will only further bolster the justifications I’ve created to excuse the hate in my heart.
Today, my third step in eliminating hatred is all about seeking understanding.
Understanding Leads to Love
This one can be trickier when the object of our hatred is, for all intents and purposes, unknowable (such as: he’s the President of the United States. Not like I can take him out to coffee).
But in general, one of the paths toward eliminating hatred is to get to know the person/group in question.
Like Brene Brown says, “It’s hard to hate people up close.”
As mentioned in part 4 of this series, Howard Thurman suggests that the breeding ground for hatred is “contact without fellowship.” Meaning, we know of people, but we don’t really know them.
My hate for Trump can’t be solved by getting to know him better, obviously. Sure, I could do things such as: search for articles that are sympathetic to his humanity; try and find resources to help better understand his upbringing and how he became what he did; and so on. But I’m gonna be honest with you, there’s no way I’m giving him that much of my time and energy.
Instead, let’s turn our attention to the people we struggle with hating who are in our lives, or who are at least closer to us than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
For me this has looked like trying to better understand those who support Trump (because clearly my hatred for him over these past few years has trickled out--as hatred will always do--to those who continue to support him). How might I push past the one-dimensional, straw man caricature I have created (or had made for me) of the MAGA hat, red-faced, screaming, petulant, ignorant, sheeple who’ve been led astray by the Master of Manipulation? (Sorry friends, I clearly have some pent up angst here. I’m working on it).
If my goal is eliminate the hate and replace it with something like love, then I turn to Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn who teaches that understanding leads to compassion, and compassion leads to love. When we can get to the why--why does this person think that way? Talk that way? Act like that?--then we can develop compassion for them: Oh, okay... of course you’d act like that because ___________.
And once we’ve fostered some compassion for others, that opens the door for love.
Which will, by its nature, cast out hate.
Trying to Understand Trump Supporters
This is by no means a comprehensive or perfect list, but here’s some of what I’ve learned in my efforts to try and understand those who continue to support and defend Trump.
THEY ARE AFRAID
Whether it’s fear of losing their job, or their way of life, or the privileges they’ve enjoyed by being in a majority positions (ie, white, christian, etc), the point is, there is so much fear present in Trump supporters. And people can act very irrationally when overcome by fear.
THEY ARE MISLED BY BAD RELIGION
This isn’t true for all Trump supporters obviously (because not all people are religious), but of the massive numbers of religious folks supporting him, I feel very confident saying that bad religious ideas are undergirding their position. Whether it’s the idea that the US has to always defned/support Israel (because of a twisted view of the End Times), or the idea that rushing the world toward catastrophe is actually a good thing (because then Jesus will return!), or the idea that God blesses people solely through financial blessings, so therefore money/economy is what matters most, all of these are horrible, horrible ideas justified by gross theological beliefs.
THEY OVER ESTEEM ABORTION
The Religious Right has long been duped into not only seeing abortion as the most important issue ever in the history of the world, but also they’ve been misled (lied to?) that the best way to reduce abortions is by making such procedures illegal. This has caused the unfortunate posture of single-issue voting (as this image so brilliantly shows), where something has become so central and important (in this case, getting Supreme Court justices who will eventually outlaw abortion) that it doesn’t matter whatsoever who the actual person in the Oval Office is as long as they’ll nominate conservative justices.
THEY’VE BEEN TOLD TO VALUE FAITH OVER REASON
Much of conservative Christianity is marked by the idea that believing something unreasonable is a sign of great faith. Further, the more absurd or impossible a thing is, the greater faith you must have if you believe it. That might be fine and well when left in the realm of religion (it’s not, IMO, I’m just granting it for the moment), but the problem becomes when that posture leaks out in to the rest of life. We are currently in a situation where so much evidence and facts and data are screaming things like, “The earth is dying!” or “Covid is dangerous!” or “The president lies to you all the time!” but in the face of such reason it is seen as a virtue to continue “believing” the opposite.
This is just a handful of things I’ve learned and am learning in my effort to understand my “enemy.” To repeat, the point here is not to excuse or let off the hook. The point is to allow such understanding to move me toward compassion.
Moving to Compassion
For example, have I ever been so afraid of something that I’ve acted poorly?
Yes. That’s a thing that happens.
Have I ever been wrapped up in certain religious ideas/convictions that have driven me to treat others as less than human?
Can I resonate with the idea that something is so important, so central, that it trumps (no pun intended) all other issues? That I’m willing to sacrifice other important things because of THE important thing?
Sure. I get that.
Can I see how someone might be so committed to a particular way of understanding themselves, and understanding the world, and understanding God, that they truly believe they’re acting in the right ways? Do I know what’s like to have something be burrowed deep in my being as “true,” and then organize my life accordingly?
Well then, Colby, maybe slow down a bit and have some compassion on these people that drive you crazy. These people that you think are ridiculous, absurd, and wrong to support Trump. Slow down and remember what it was like to live by similar values, to be convinced of similar ideas of what is True. Have some compassion on those who simply may not know better, who might very well be trying to live out their convictions with as much integrity and commitment as you do.
It’s hard to hate people when you can understand them enough to see your own self reflected back at you.
And thus begins the journey of practicing loving our enemies.
Pray for me.
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Questions for You
When you think about your enemies, the people you harbor hate for, what happens when you think about trying to understand them better? To get to know their why?
Can you articulate any degree of “understanding” about your enemy? Do you know why they do/say/think as they do?
Can you see how developing such understanding might lead to compassion, which might open the doorway to love?
Did you Know?
On Wednesdays at 11am Pacific I go LIVE on my Facebook page to do a reading of these articles and engage with anyone who wants to talk about this stuff?
You should join me!
Just make sure you “Like” my page on FB, then tune in Wednesdays at 11am.