Hatred is like anger. It’s an emotion and a choice.
As an emotion, hatred happens to us. We have little say in whether we feel or don’t feel hatred in the first instance. We also bear little or no blame. Certain people and certain situations incite my hatred, and certain people and situations–perhaps different ones–incite yours. Our background or our temperament play the dominant role when hatred is an emotion.
And yet we also choose to hate. I said “we have little say” when hatred is an emotion, but we do have some say. We can’t change our background, but we can change the stories we tell ourselves about it. We can’t change our temperament on a dime, but we can mold it with our daily practices and decisions. The company we keep, the culture we consume, our willingness to challenge our perspectives–those all do a certain work on us.
After the first instance, hatred becomes an intellectual choice in two ways. The first is, we choose to hold onto or nurture the initial hatred. The second is, we take an inventory of our values and match them to the situation that is in front of us. Even if our first inclination isn’t to hate, we can choose to hate that which goes so strongly against our deepest values.
I said above that hatred is like anger. Up to this point, you could replace my uses of the word “hatred” and “hate” with “anger” and arrive at my opinion about anger. However, hatred is different from anger. Anger, in my view, can be a spur to right action. While it’s possible to go overboard with it, anger is not essentially harmful. Hatred is. It’s a sickness that can and will eat each of us from the inside until that’s all we are. As a bonus, it’ll enable us to take others down with us.
All of this probably sounds preachy, sanctimonious, and self-serving. It sounds that way because it is. There be elephants in this blog post which I decline to name but about which I’m thinking and about which some of you might be thinking, too. Just rest assured that when I say “we” and “us” above, I include myself.
Photo credit: Jessica Mulley, A Poison Tree, Blake Project Mosaic, Centaur Street. Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.