Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Not Loving is Hating

It Started Like So Many Other Blogs
I mentioned the other day that, as my dad and I were talking over Thanksgiving, he expressed what I would call hatred towards certain political leaders. After he read my blog, he said, "I don't 'hate' anyone. I just don't like what they're doing!"

I responded, "Dad, you might not call it 'hate', but you certainly seem to hold great disdain animosity for the people you were talking about."

In the end, my dad held his ground that he didn't "hate" anyone.

What Does Hate Mean?
So, this morning I looked up "hate" and found:
hate: to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: to hate the enemy; to hate bigotry
The synonyms of 'hate' are plentiful: loathe, execrate, despise, abhor, detest, intense dislike, aversion toward, and on and on.

The dictionary (dictionary.reference.com) had just one antonym: love.

Empowering a Word
Now, having grown up with a conservative Christian background, I can well remember being taught that we were never to 'hate' anyone. We were taught to 'love' the sinner, but 'hate' the sin. I can remember once running out of the Sunday school class room chasing a friend who had grabbed my books and run away with them. I tripped and fell on some steps and called out after him, "I hate you!"

All this took place right in front of my horrified mom, who quickly explained that we should never 'hate' anyone and that we should definitely never say 'I hate you' in church.

Now, what happens when we're told that we're never, ever supposed to do thus-and-such? Well, one of the things that we humans tend to do is to start calling thus-and-such, this-or-that wherever possible. You know, "I'm not lying, I'm just leaving out some information", or, "He's not ugly, he just looks different", or, "I don't hate so-and-so, I just don't really care for him."

We judge the word so strongly that over time, we don't actually see any of our actions as being characteristic of the word. The effect is to keep the action (or emotion) and lose the word.

Clarifying Empowered Words
So, as I stood by the sink washing dishes this morning, I thought to myself, "Hmm..., all these internal word games make discussing whether or not someone hates or lies or steals a pretty unproductive conversation. Even if we can get down to specific actions, we'll still end up calling them something else."

Then it occurred to me that this effect is perhaps an artifact of moving away from things versus moving towards their opposite. When we move away from actions, thoughts or feelings that we don't want, we judge them as bad or negative. Our judgment in turn creates a filter by which we start to see them less clearly. On the other hand, when we move towards actions, thoughts and feelings we do want, we also judge them, but we judge them positively. Our judgments create filters, but they're ones of attraction and positiveness.

Back to Not Hating
From a practical perspective, if I want to not hate someone, or not hate generally, then the most useful approach would be to actively love and to define hate as not loving. This has two really cool side effects:
  1. Because many of us hold the concept of "love" in high regard and because many of us hold high standards for what it means to love, it's very easy for us to see when we're not loving. Certainly much easier to see than when we are hating.
  2. Even if we still want to use the moving-away-from operational model, having a clear and easy-to-spot definition of "hate" (i.e., not loving) lets us tap into the full power of our moving-away-from motivations.
And Then Everything Changes!
Imagine how much differently we would behave if instead of not lying, we were going to always tell the complete, honest truth. Not doing so would be, lying.

Imagine if, rather than not being fearful, we were always going to be... ummm... err... what is the opposite of fearless? I mean, courage is in spite of fear. Well...

Imagine if, rather than not hating, we were always going to actively and passionately love. Not doing so would be hating.

How would that change your world?

Love, Teflon

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