Hate is a word people use all the time. You hear phrases like: “I hate broccoli,” “I hate being late,” or “Don’t you just hate it when that happens?” These kinds of phrases do not capture the true meaning of hate and hatred. They are more likely statements of resentment or general dislike. However, when you focus on the real meaning of hate and hatred you are dealing with some heavy stuff. So what is hate? The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology defines hate as a “deep, enduring, intense emotion expressing animosity, anger, and intense hostility towards a person, group, or object.” It usually derives from fear, anger, a sense of injustice or injury.
Lately, I have become aware that there seems to be an increase in the displays of hate and hatred. There has always been hatred; I have just noticed that it appears more frequently in the news and on talk shows as well as in emails that I get. Hate is a verb that describes people’s attitude and active behavior. It also exposes the attitude of people toward someone or some thing.
Hatred is the noun. We use that word when we talk about hate. Some people describe hate as an emotion. It is not. It is an attitude. This attitude is a “predisposition to action.” Attitudes produce emotions which are a result of thinking. You cannot have an emotion without first having a thought.
That thought produces the emotion, even if that thought is subconscious. The danger is that when people act only on the emotion and not on rational thought, they often do very violent and deadly things. An example is the recent shooting in the Naval Shipyards in Washington D.C.
Even though hate is an attitude, it is, however, the basis for a wide range of emotions that include anger, rage, wrath, outrage, indignation and furious outbursts, to name a few. When people hate, they are poised to act. All too often that action is violent. We see that violence repeated daily in the newspapers and on television.
When I was in high school, I went with the pastor of our church to visit a man who was dying. His family showed us upstairs to his room. He was bed-ridden. When the pastor started talking to him, he became very agitated and said that the only thing on his mind was the former friend who had betrayed him.
He angrily declared, “If I could get out of this bed right now, I would go hunt him down and kill him!” That was all he talked about while we were there. Our pastor could not get through to him. He had such a deep rage inside of him that it was literally eating him alive. I left there a disturbed and sad young man.
One of the most dangerous things about hate is that it destroys a person from the inside. Hate is an acid that eats away at your soul, produces pain, and reduces who you are. It blinds us to the good that surrounds us.
Hate is fueled by rage. Rage is generally a collection of a bunch of angers. When a person has a rage, he has not dealt with anger in a healthy way. He has suppressed one anger after another over time. That anger keeps building up like steam in a tank with no outlet. At some point the anger will explode and cause people to do terrible things to others.
How do we live with anger and hatred? The starting point is learning to deal with each feeling of anger as it happens. Anger is a natural and OK feeling.
The way to deal with anger is to go back to our attitude. Attitude is the thought and anger is the feeling that it produces. So the solution lies in thinking. I have dealt with clients who have “anger issues.” That is code for “rage.” The one thing they must learn is that it is OK to feel anger and keep on thinking. Think of the many times that you have heard of a person who committed a crime of passion in anger that hurt or killed someone. As they stand before the judge, they say, “If I could only take those five minutes back...I just wasn’t thinking.” No matter how angry a person gets, that person can always keep thinking and making choices he would not have made if he were not angry and not thinking.
Go ahead get angry because that is normal. However, when you are angry do not stop thinking!
How do you use thinking in controlling hate? There are two ways:
(1) The first way to control hate is compassion. Barry Graham says it this way: “It’s not love that will free us from anger and hate – it is compassion. Without compassion, it’s possible to be cruel to people we love; with compassion, cruelty becomes impossible...” So how do you have compassion for the person who has wronged you? The starting place is to acknowledge that whatever is going on with him is more about him than about you.
(2) The second way to control hate is to forgive.
Since the remedy for hate is to forgive, one must give it a lot of thought. When you understand that forgiving is for you to do, and not the one who has offended you, then you can control your anger and dispel your hate. Is that easy? No, but most things that are worthwhile are not easy. A medical doctor put it this way, “The power and beauty of forgiveness is often overlooked. When you forgive another, you actually liberate yourself. To forgive is to allow peace between you and the other, and perhaps even more importantly, it can allow peace to reside within you.” Mark Banschick, M.D.
Tempted to hate? Remember the remedy is to have compassion for the person you hate and to forgive the person. The reward is a mentally and physically healthier you.
Ray Quiett, Ph.D. is professor emeritus of East Central University and a licensed professional counselor and licensed marital and family therapist.