In a society fond of hyperbole, hatred is easily misunderstood. In the same way that people may claim to be starving when they’re merely quite hungry, it is commonplace for people to claim that they hate something when, in fact, they just dislike it greatly. Yet, in much the same way that starvation is much more than acute hunger, hatred is much more than acute dislike.
True hatred constitutes ill will, the desire to do harm. And indeed, hatred does constitute an illness of one’s will, an emotional disease prone to spreading most rapidly among those already infected with fear and anger. No doubt you’ve experienced it yourself, whether in the role of hater or hated or both. But, have you noticed how toxic it is, how it goes directly against the well-being of love and life?
The desire to do harm can feel surprisingly energizing and powerful. After all, it is so much easier to destroy than to create. It is so much easier to bedevil than to build. It only takes a little effort to cause a lot of harm. Accordingly, hatred can come across as quite appealing to those who feel powerless. Yet, hatred never actually improves anything.
So, why is hatred so popular? Why do people think that there is anything good about the desire to do harm?
In part, the popularity of hatred comes from the combination of greed with the illusion of relative gain. Namely, if I want to be stronger than you then I may choose to weaken you so as to perceive myself as being stronger, relative to you, than I was before I harmed you. Of course, in absolute terms all I’ve done by weakening you is to weaken the both of us combined. If you then return the favor and weaken me, it may well be because you are under the same illusion — or it could just be that you’re trying to minimize my ability to cause further harm. In either case, the end result of your harming me is to weaken the both of us. If I then continue to harm you while you continue to harm me, what we’re doing is essentially playing a game in which whoever dies last “wins” — unless, of course, we snap out of the illusion.
Due to how anger acts as a precursor to ill will, hatred’s popularity is also related to the illusion of vengeful justice. This is because anger, in all its forms, is an emotion that arises as a reaction to a perceived injustice or unfairness associated with one’s identity. So, if I believe that there is an injustice occurring that is associated with my identity, I naturally desire to take action to bring about justice and fairness, at least as I perceive it. If I then feel a desire to do harm, I may misinterpret the disease of hatred as being a desire to bring about justice, so as to soothe my anger.
The illusion here is that vengeance, the act of harming as punishment or retribution, is not capable of yielding justice. This is despite the fact that ancient religious and legal mandates, such as “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, seem to offer validation for the illusion. Yet, rather than resulting in justice, millennia of experience have shown such mandates to actually exacerbate injustice. This is because, rather than righting wrongs, such mandates were meant to instill a fear of retribution in order to both discourage people from causing harm initially and to discourage people from escalating cycles of retaliatory violence. Yet, damage control does not constitute justice, given that justice calls for compensation based on fair valuation rather than the exacerbation of harm.
Because true hatred is the desire to do harm, it is fundamentally the opposite of true love. Where love urges us to increase the ability to function of whatever we love, hate urges us to decrease the ability to function of whatever we hate. This is why love is so revitalizing — and why hatred is so toxic. By pretending that decreasing your abilities will increase my abilities, I not only decrease our collective abilities but also fail to increase my own. You see, hatred is not only toxic to the hated but also to the haters, who deny themselves opportunities to flourish while desiring to harm potential friends and allies.
Yet, in combination with greed, the illusions of relative gain and vengeful justice are not the only fallacies facilitating the insanity of hatred. Another is the illusion of inherent supremacy, the belief that one or more people are inherently superior / better / more valuable than others. For example, if I feel greedy and believe that I am superior to someone, I might desire to harm that person (to “put them in their place”) so as to assert or confirm my supposed superiority. Of course, the very concept of something being superior / better / more valuable is entirely relative, which means that such assertions are always based on the context within which they are made. In other words, to qualify as “better” one must be better relative to another based on what it means to be better within a given context at a given time. So, for someone to be inherently superior, that person would necessarily be superior in every possible context at every possible time, which is simply impossible.
In truth, we are all inherently equal, having incredibly diverse experiences while exhibiting wildly diverse qualities, abilities, beliefs, and behaviors. It is from this valuable diversity that we then evaluate, in any given moment, what we deem to be superior / better / more valuable, based on our individual and collective contexts. And, due to the collective harm that results when hate is acted upon, the desire to do harm is not well justified by any such evaluation. Rather, you are far more justified in desiring to help people than in desiring to harm them, even when those people have harmed you.
Another facilitating fallacy is the illusion of separation, the belief that what happens to one does not affect another. This fallacy is commonly used as a way to simplify one’s thinking, by ignoring the innumerable interrelationships and side effects that complicate our reality. Yet, because what happens to one person clearly affects the group which contains that person, what happens to another person clearly affects the group which contains both people — and thereby affects them both, no matter how indirectly. Yet, haters generally pretend that harming those they hate will not cause themselves even indirect harm.
By taking advantage of such common hate-facilitating fallacies, hate mongers (those who promote hatred) routinely attempt to influence masses of people in order to harm and justify the harming of targeted groups and individuals. The initial step is often a call for people to be angry, by claiming injustice and calling for people to identify as belonging to the aggrieved party. A second step is often to claim the aggrieved party as superior, implying that those who identify with the aggrieved party are superior themselves, relative to those being targeted for harm. A third step is often to call for vengeful justice, so as to claim hatred and harm as being morally justified. A fourth step is to claim that any harm caused to the target is of benefit to the aggrieved party, so as to incentivize maximizing the harm’s severity.
By whipping up a frenzy of hatred, hate mongers manipulate masses of people to cause massive harm in order to serve the hate mongers’ agendas, rather than the interests of the masses. As noted earlier, hatred is toxic not only to the hated but also to the haters. So, by fomenting hatred, hate mongers harm not only those they seek to harm but also those they seek to feel hatred. By harming both the haters and the hated, hate mongering rapidly accelerates the harming of our world, a world currently in dire need of healing. As such, hate mongering is a public menace that we can no longer afford to ignore.
Attempts to amplify hatred, which are remarkably commonplace in societies with free speech, are even more commonplace in societies with restricted speech. Without the freedom to counter messages of hate, societies with restricted speech more readily serve as means for autocrats to utilize hate mongering to initiate large-scale acts of violence, all for the purpose of attempting to satiate their own insatiable desires for dominance. So, how can we counter, compensate, and cure the illness of hatred?
Love, which we experience as a desire and knowing to increase the ability to function of that which we love, must be opened to, welcomed, and acted upon, firstly towards ourselves and then towards others. Because the indefinite compounding of harm can only yield more harm, the only end it can offer is utter destruction. By contrast, the indefinite compounding of love can only yield infinitely greater well-being, infinitely greater freedom to live gratefully as part of the gloriousness of life itself.
If transitioning from hate to love seems like too far of a leap, know that there is a bridge between the two that is built on forgiveness. To cross this bridge, the first step is to forgive yourself for the harm you have caused and the hatred you have felt. By doing so, you free yourself of the burdens of guilt and shame, which prevent you from loving fully. The second step is to forgive others for the harm they have caused and the hatred they have felt. Because we are all inherently equal, everyone is just as worthy of forgiveness as you are, regardless of how dangerous they may still be. The third step is to love yourself, to open yourself to feel the love within your heart that is needed for you to heal and flourish. The fourth and final step is to love others, to open yourself to feel the love within your heart that is needed to support them in their healing and flourishing.
As we open ourselves to love instead of hate, we necessarily open ourselves to humility instead of arrogance, by acknowledging the fallacies that impair our thinking and make us unwitting accomplices to malicious agendas. Whereas hate yields conflict, love yields cooperation. Whereas the amplification of hate yields war, the amplification of love yields peace.
The spreading of love requires each of us to lead by example, to show people how they can be rather than merely to tell people how they should be. And yes, that certainly applies to me as well. By filling our lives with love instead of hate, we fill our lives with healing instead of harm. Even in the midst of conflict, violence, and turmoil, we can lovingly defend those we love, without hating those who harm. So, whenever your mind decides to visit the domain of hate, cross the bridge of forgiveness — and help free our world of the insanity of hatred.