Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Of late, there seem to be a lot of articles about how to spend time with a family that you hate. It seems a bit extreme, so I thought I’d explore the concept of hate for a bit.
First of all, I don’t believe that hate is an expression of feelings towards somebody, but rather a state of discontentment with that individual. It’s a statement of anger, and the extent thereof. See, the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
This simple truth resolves the conflict of how you can hate someone that you love. When I was very young (elementary school) somebody called me a bad name in school. It was devastating. Still crying when I came home, my mother asked what was wrong. “So and so said I was a…” whatever the slight was. “Well, is it true?” she asked. I was furious. “NO!” I shouted. “Then why are you so upset?”
It was a valuable lesson in taking insults, moreso if you consider that, if it were true, then it wouldn’t be an insult anyway (save perhaps a derogatory term or intent). But if you really think about it, if some stranger in the street insulted you, it wouldn’t hit nearly as hard as if somebody you love did. In a sense, hate is at least to some extent evidence of feelings for somebody else, whatever those might be.
Some of my friends who are parents won’t even allow their children to use the word “hate”, and as it is an expression of such extreme anger, I can’t say that I blame them. But the root of the hatred really isn’t the person at whom it is focused, but rather something that happened. Personally, I think that it would go far with conflict resolution if people would seek the roots of hatred, rather than simply keeping it focused at the individual.
The problem with hatred is that harboring it is unhealthy, both physically and emotionally. The health effects of stress are well-known (heart disease, high blood pressure, arrhythmia and more). It also leads to mental health problems.
So, if you hate somebody, take the time to think about why. What was the origin? What is it about that person that makes you so angry. Figure it out, and if the individual is important to you, take the time to talk with them about it. Discuss your feelings. Getting it out in the open is the best way to figure out how to move beyond it. If, as it turns out, the individual is not somebody particularly important to you, then you need to find a way to forgive them, and yourself.
It is possible to hate somebody that you, frankly, just don’t care about, or, that you don’t care about because of something that they did. This often occurs when their actions show their true colors, and they are not part of your primary circle. In my most important teaching position, during the year that I applied for tenure, one of the key faculty members in the school, a biology professor, actually started a rumor (didn’t just propagate it) that I was having an affair with a student. This was an emotionally crushing thing for that student to find out, and frankly, if I didn’t get tenure it would have been the end of my career. It was an attempt not just to get me fired, but to destroy my entire academic career. This is a good reason to hate somebody.
But I did get tenure. I’m sure the vote was close because of her antics, but she failed. We were both faculty in the same school (and her office was next to mine), so of course we had to get along, at least well enough to work together. So, I always behaved professionally towards her, but frankly, she showed her true nature. The only relationship that I ever had with her was professional and I never wanted anything more to do with her. I had my tenure, so I could let go of that hatred. Frankly, I would have even if she managed to deny it, but I never again wanted to have anything to do with her. I also know that her antics that continued well beyond me earned her a poor reputation and considerable disrespect from others, both faculty and students alike. Maybe it was a form of vindication, but it certainly wasn’t because of anything that I did.
Whomever you have hatred for, let it go. If it’s family or important friends from the past, talk it out. Heal those relationships, because that is what life is about, and makes it worthwhile. If it’s somebody who is not so important, just let it go. Let them live with the conscious of their own actions or fall because of their own pattern of behaviors and move on. You’ll be better for it.