The Price of Hatred

It comes at a price much higher than you might think.  Yet you’ll always find it on sale and readily available.

I’ve recently had opportunity to speak with a few people who embody hate. Sure, somewhere in there, you’ll find little pockets of bitterness tucked away and likely some envy or jealousy from what I could tell, but what really consumes these people is hatred. Pure, old-fashioned, unadulterated hatred.

Before I start, I should put all my cards on the table.  Anyone who says they’ve never felt hate for something or someone is very likely lying.  And I would never say that I haven’t been there as well.  However you might know me – in person, online, in social media – you know that I vent, but when I do, I’m done with it.  I don’t actually hate on someone or something beyond throwing my opinion out there.  I think it’s healthy to vent and to be honest about how we feel.  But, my friend, I can tell you this – what I’m about to write isn’t about being healthy.  I just can’t believe that hate can become the one thing that makes somebody’s world go ’round.  Day after day.

Having been raised in a church-going family, I’ve heard the saying (scripture actually) “the wages of sin” a lot, and I’m not going to get preachy on you here.  This is more of an observation, and a simple shake of the head.

I was absolutely shocked and taken aback at two things when I talked to these people: how flimsy their cases or arguments were, and how much the hatred in these folks’ lives had become part of who they are.  Let me explain.

First, let’s talk about what brought these people to hate something or someone.  These people were quite open about it, and in some ways, almost proud.  The actual reason, if they could even remember was not that odd.  What threw me for a loop was how old some of this hate was.  I mean, these people could barely remember what had started them down this sad and lonely road in the first place.  And I even asked one of them to explain – basically, if you’re hanging on to one singular event that happened so far in the past that you can’t quite put your finger on when it happened, or what even happened that day or that month or that year… why are you still hating someone or something related to that event?  How on earth could you let something, that after this amount of time has to be considered insignificant by anyone who is sane, bother you so much?  It makes no sense to me.  And whatever your case was, at that time, to hate someone – do you really want to continue using that as a crutch to feed your hatred, day in and day out, for as long as you can remember?

Secondly, I want to tell you about how these poor people have been affected by this hate.  Again, it seems that people are willing to be quite open about this stuff.  And I heard some amazing confessions lately.  I’ve heard that people lose hours of sleep over this deep-seeded hatred.  I mean, one person told me that they haven’t slept properly in many years because they are so fixated on this hate.  YEARS!  I’ve heard that people will actually fantasize, to the point of mentally planning murder, about hurting the object(s) of their hatred.  I was told about how perfectly healthy relationships, families and bodies were all burdened to the point of destruction by this simple, seething red-hot hate.  I talked to someone who, after being diagnosed with cancer, realized that he had lost everything he ever had to this one emotion.  His wife, his kids, his jobs – many jobs – and now finally his health.  He was convinced that the hatred had eaten away at him to the point where it manifested itself in the form of cancer.  And I wouldn’t doubt that for one second.  So many bad things in our lives will take any opportunity they are given and they won’t let go once we give them that foothold.

After having some of these conversations,  I came away feeling that someone might be willing to give away all the good things they have – whether it’s something emotional, spiritual, or material – all in order to free them up to focus everything they have on this hate.  They might not realize it when they’re actually giving these things away, and it might be a slow process, but the result is the same in the end.  Visualize a person slowly having their teeth pulled – I mean so slowly that the pain is barely there.  Oh sure, you might notice the moment a tooth is gone, and chewing might feel somewhat different, but the gradual nature of the process has left the person feeling almost normal after each loss.  And once the mouth is completely devoid of teeth, the person will go on chewing and speaking as they always have, blissfully unaware to the losses they have suffered, and feeling almost normal within their new normal.  You could be completely motivated to get through every day by your hatred, and feel normal in doing it – whilst forgetting the amazing person you once were.  And still could be.

I don’t have the answers here, and certainly not for the people I talked to.  I could only sit and listen in amazement.  But I couldn’t be silent here.  I can only tell you what I would do, and I’m not breaking any new ground here.  This seems like absolute common sense to me, but based on these recent conversations, maybe it isn’t as clear as I would like to think.

If I were faced with circumstances that would make me want to hate someone for something they were or for something they did, I would try, if it’s at all applicable, to take it up with them.  Talk to them about it, and tell them how I feel.  I was raised to do this, and it works.  No, it won’t always be applicable, and believe me, it won’t always feel normal or be easy.  It might feel downright ridiculous to talk to someone about it, but follow me on this one – would it be any less ridiculous than losing sleep over the exact same thing, and letting it fester away in your soul?

The second thing I’d do is ask myself – does hating this person make any sense?  Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t ever tell you that you have to agree with everything everyone out there says and does.  Not even close.  You should never compromise who you are and what you believe in.  But, in the end, I’m so grateful to live somewhere where I’ve been afforded the courtesy of being allowed to think and believe what I want, even if it doesn’t jive with what others are doing.  To hate someone over something that is likely trivial in the grand scheme of all things that are happening and will eventually happen can never, ever make sense.

Another thing I’d be forced to do is count my blessings.  This is something you hear all the time, but I realize that maybe we don’t do it enough.  I’ve experienced a few losses – my dad and my brother – and some health hiccups – and each of these events has given me time to think.  Time to pause and collect my thoughts and remember how much we have to be thankful for.  If you have a minute to take inventory of all the amazing things in your life – in categories that I talked about earlier:  emotional, spiritual and material – you should do it.  It is shocking how easily we can end up taking these things for granted.  Need some examples?  Consider how looking at things from the right (or wrong) perspective can rob you and me of the joy in something we ought to be grateful for.  These are my own examples, and perhaps you’ve got a few of your own to add.  I’ve often caught myself doing something similar to this, and have felt ashamed afterward.

Have you been bitching about your slightly sore back today, even though you were able to get up out of bed today?  Did you manage to sling some silent venom at the barista who seemed to take forever making your drink this morning – the $5 latte that you can afford to treat yourself to on a regular basis?   Ever get to work and think how ridiculous it is that you have another meeting today and that sometimes you just can’t take it anymore – only to remember what a blessing it is to have a job?  Are your kids driving you crazy with their fighting and screaming?  Me too, until I remember that we know someone with a deaf and mute child who would give anything to hear their baby say one word, and that we also know many people that would love to have a child to call their own.  Did your significant other do something that left you shaking your head, wondering what on earth was wrong with them – until you remember that sometimes, or maybe always, they are the one who makes you whole?  Ever sit in your car at a crosswalk, silently seething at the impossibly slow handicapped person crossing the street, holding you up from getting to your golf game?  Hey, is your family irritating you with an endless string of little idiosyncracies and niggling issues?  Sure, they can do that, but they won’t always be there, and it may be sooner than you think that you could be sobbing over a casket or a headstone, wishing you could be bothered by that person again or even just hear that voice one more time – and wondering why you didn’t put aside that negativity.

This bring me to the end.  I think you can boil down so much of the negative you and I might feel on a daily basis to knee-jerk reactions.  Yes, there are slow transformations and gradual changes in response to our environments or situations.  But many times, we just feel that one thing has happened to us and darn it, we shouldn’t have to put up with that.  And we start hanging our hat on that feeling.

Don’t do it.  It isn’t worth it.  Ever.  Nothing negative is ever worth hanging on to.  Nothing negative will ever make your life better or smooth out those wrinkles or add more hair to your head or more years to your life or more meaningful moments you can reflect on when you get old and frail.  Nothing negative will ever bring back things that were taken from you, or make sunnier those dark days you wish you hadn’t woken up.  Nothing negative will ever improve your life.  Nothing negative will ever help you get more love, peace, satisfaction or joy out of this short journey we’re on.  I assure you, my friend, that anytime you choose to hang on to hate, it will hurt you more than it will hurt anyone else.  And I’d hate to see that happen.  But not real hate, you know?

The only thing that I was able to tell one of the people that opened up to me about their own hatred was this:  I told them that all those flickers of hate – fleeting moments, which turned into long, drawn-out seconds, and then minutes, and then hours and then weeks, months and years – and finally decades – all those moments of hating someone – I guaranteed them, and I’ll guarantee you, that the person they were hating all that time probably never thought about them once during all those hateful moments.  Can something get any sadder or lonelier?

One final thing to clarify – I’ve referred to people hating other people, but it should be clear that you must treat yourself the same way.  I know people that also hate themselves and can’t forgive themselves for things that seem impossible to undo.  You’re bigger and better than that, and you have an amazing gift of resiliency that no one can ever take away from you.

So you tell me – is hate a worthy investment of the short time we’ve been given here?  There’s no good argument in favor of it.  Don’t do it, and don’t teach it to our kids.  There are an infinite number of amazing paths we can take through this life, and none of them require hate to make it through to the other side.  Take all the passion you can muster and pour it into something good and sweet and wonderful.

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