Why I’ve Turned My Back On Hate

I have decided that I am no longer going to allow myself to use the word ‘hate’.

It has become such an overused, meaningless term and is no longer able to convey the emotion or gravity that it should. Consider how many times you say something like “I hate that song”. Really, you hate that song? How shallow is your range of emotions that you only have a choice of three emotions; love, hate and that in-between thing you reserve for Taylor Swift?

You can’t hate a song. You can’t hate spinach. You can’t even hate taxi drivers. The sound, taste, texture, behaviour or attitude of a thing or person may annoy you or make you angry but I’m pretty sure you don’t hate them. The funny thing about these expressions is that when you meet the taxi driver you may discover he’s an engaging guy and even a kindred spirit. He may turn out to be a total doos, but you don’t know that until you find out and even if he is, you have no reason to hate him. The spinach may really be fantastic as part of a meal prepared to suit your tastes. Or maybe it still tastes horrible. Make a bowl of cereal, not everything is about what you like. Six beers and three tequilas down and you’re rocking out to the club anthem you hated while it was on the radio (tell me you haven’t done this and I’ll publish a written apology).

Take taxi drivers as an example. There are days where I would gladly scrap the entire industry and send them all packing. I can justify this (ridiculous) sentiment when they stop in lanes of moving traffic, hoot incessantly or endanger lives. I’ll tell you a secret though; if you ever need to enter or switch lanes that you are driving in the taxi driver will be the first to let you in. This is a fact. I’ll tell you something more; you also drive like a knob, I’ve seen you doing it (put your phone down).

I think that the biggest problem with using hate to describe mild discomfort, dislike or irritation is that it simply narrows the range of emotions that you allow yourself to have. The word ‘hate’ is like the word ‘nice’ when used in this way; it says nothing about the nature or quality of the experience. When we allow ourselves to reduce our experiences of life to these words life itself begins to lose nuance, subtlety and, ultimately, real meaning. And that’s just tragic.

I believe completely that if you allow yourself to open the range of emotions, taste, sight, touch, smell, etc. to yourself you will actually begin to experience things in a more enjoyable, real and meaningful way. Why do people taste all of those things in, for instance, a good single malt whiskey? It is because they allow themselves to. Nothing more and nothing less. Certainly you or I may not like the stuff (what’s not to like) but if we allow ourselves to describe what we don’t like we will even gain an appreciation for the things we don’t like. “Urgh, I hate that, it’s horrible” may become “the charcoal undertones are overpowering and I find the alcohol too intense”.

You see, probably all of the things that we say that we hate we don’t hate at all. I get the hyperbole in assigning an emotion so strong to something to get your point across. You just can’t do it with everything. So when you read the article that starts with “astronaut rendered blind after vomiting into helmet” it is perfectly acceptable to comment “I hate it when that happens, LOL”. When you read the article that starts with “farmer murdered and wife and daughter raped” and comment “I hate black people, they’re savages” you are starting to walk a very slippery line.

Just allow yourself to feel and express the full spectrum of emotions available to you. Imagine reading someone like Hemmingway with his sublime use of the adjective and take this away from his writing. He was, like, a very old man. The big fish was nice. The old man hated the sharks. The character would lose all personality and you would never be able to know, empathise with or disagree with him. Described in a narrow range the quality of the interaction would be impossible to describe and would therefore lose the very thing that makes it so remarkable.

Write a paragraph on “the old man hated the sharks”, but the only emotion you’re allowed to use is hate. You can’t describe his emotions in any other terms. You can use that space on the mantelpiece that you’ve been reserving for your Pulitzer for something else.

If you can’t properly express how you feel about something or are unable to describe what it means to you I believe that at some point you start to feel less. At very least you start to engage with the world in a more simplistic way. You become like the pampered, precocious, one-dimensional teenager that we all know. They’re the one who can’t see infatuation from love, love from desire and desire from wanting to be accepted. Basically, Bieber fans.

My second reason for not allowing myself to use the word hate is that if I use it then I allow myself to feel it. Hate is so far to the edge of the spectrum of human emotions that it should be one of the rarest of emotions.

Have you considered what hate really is? Sit still and think about it. Think about the things that have been done in this world that have been driven by hate. True hate, not the kind we reserve for spiders or traffic jams. It’s the thing that drives genocide, for heaven’s sake. You’ve felt so strongly about something that you’ve been prepared to exterminate an ethnic group? Wow. How big was that spider?

I think that we all have the capacity for hate in its true sense. I also think that very, very few of us have ever felt it and have no idea what it really is. I even think that I can sometimes understand where it comes from and what drives it. But then I really think about and I realise that I don’t have anything within my frame of reference to allow me to understand it.

I know that what hate does is to diminish us as people. It eats us up from the inside out. Hate cannot see the good in anything, the yin in the yang, the glimmer of humanity in the despot, the pain in the murderer and the understanding of how society, circumstance and nurture can turn essentially good people bad.

At this point I need to point out that I don’t think that anyone is born rotten. I believe that they become that way. Of course this slide may be exacerbated by personality defects that reduce or remove the watchmen of our consciousness; guilt, empathy and compassion. I don’t know enough about these conditions to comment on their nature other than to say that they must contribute to making a good person bad. This may allow that person to hate, but for the most part doesn’t allow us to hate them.

The making bad of a good person is what concerns me. If you allow yourself to hate then you allow yourself to take some steps down the dark path that leads to the reduction of your humanity. It starts by taking away your ability to empathise. You see, hate is so totalitarian an emotion that it leaves no space for compassion or empathy.

How do you reduce your capacity for hate? I think it’s simple, just remove the word from your lexicon. Describe your experience of the world in colour, with nuance and texture. See everything for what it is and describe it yourself with these complexities in mind. If something is bad then say so. I’m not advocating a running barefoot through fields of daisies at sunrise relationship with the world. Just describe things for what they are and how you feel about them. Oh yes, this is going to require a high level of authenticity on your part – breathe, panic attacks pass.

Your perception of the world is in fact what you project onto it. Hate, or rather a lack of tolerance, has little to do with the other party and more to do with the projection of your norms, beliefs or standards onto something else. What about spinach or a spider makes it worthy of hate? Absolutely nothing. What you are feeling is your prejudices, likes, dislikes, standards or whatever projected onto a green, leafy vegetable or arachnid going about its daily business. Allow yourself to be mindful and then have the authenticity to recognise your feeling for what they are.

Lastly, if you surrender your authenticity to something else you make it responsible for how you feel. When you do this you give it power over your emotions. When you give this away to something you may well come to hate it. But that’s another thing for another day.

So here’s the summary of my sermon:

1. If all you have to describe things are words connected closely to love and hate you are depriving yourself of so much of the subtlety of life; the stuff that gives it colour, nuance and texture. Try to find authentic words for what you are authentically feeling. It’s not as easy as it looks.

2. In everything bad there is good and everything good there is bad. To truly hate is to assume total evil exists. It may exist, but you can bet your life that you haven’t seen it yet. Try to pity pure evil not to hate it. When you hate it you become pure evil.

3. Because it differs from your value system doesn’t mean it’s wrong. People have different ethics, standards and beliefs. Pick up your skirts, Nancy, and step over it. You are not in fact the centre of the universe.

4. What you believe you are. What you allow yourself to think you allow yourself to believe. If you allow yourself to hate you will become, at least partly, hateful.

5. You project yourself on everything around you and every experience. Make sure that what you are seeing or feeling isn’t a reflection of your own experiences. Because, in that case, the thing you hate is within you.