The other day, I watched a movie about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. After the movie, I reflected on hatred. At first, of course, my reflection focused on the hatred portrayed in the movie -- hatred between people of different races and different beliefs. Then, my mind moved on to see how hatred resided in my own being.
Now we may have different classifications of hatred -- just as we have different "ratings" for lies: the really big ones and the small "white" lies. So I started my self-examination with the "little" hatreds.
I find myself thinking on occasion, "I hate it when...." We use the word hate easily... We hate a certain kind of ice cream, we hate tofu, we hate hurting ourselves, we hate being late, we hate when others cut us off in traffic, we hate being stuck at a red light, etc etc...
This is where I realized that anything that we profess to "hate" is simply a preference on our part. I prefer to not eat Lima beans, which does not mean there is anything wrong with them -- other people love them. As for traffic jams, they are simply a "fact of life", especially if you live in the city.
Now, while I don't know of anyone who loves traffic jams, many people have learned to make the best of them. These people listen to self-help or motivational tapes in the car. Others simply enjoy listening to their favorite music, or catch up on phone calls, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet inside the car.
Anything we profess to hate is simply stating that we like something else more, but we choose to say that we "hate" that other thing. Hatred is a choice. It is turning what may be a personal preference or bias into an absolute. If I say I hate something, I do not allow myself to have any experience of joy associated with it. Hating something closes the door to it.
And worse, hating something (or someone) attracts hatred and anger in our lives. Whether the anger comes from our own self as we sit fuming in a traffic jam, or whether it comes from someone else as they also experience the rage of their attitudes, it still is a choice of how to react to any particular circumstance.
As for the hatred between races, that too is a choice -- sometimes it's a choice born of ignorance, sometimes a choice bred from family attitudes, and at other times it's a choice made from generalized expectations. But, regardless of that, it's a choice we all face at some point.
It is so easy to fall into generalizations about race... even the jokes encourage it... after all we've all heard jokes about "Polacks", Jews, "Frenchies", etc. etc. There may not be a race that is immune to prejudice of some sort from others that see themselves as different (i.e. better or worse) than them.
While, many of us may not have extreme prejudices or hatreds in our attitudes, if we look deeply we will find them there... even about such inconsequential things as Lima beans. I grew up in Northern Canada... As a child, I did not know any Native American Indians personally, but I had prejudices about them because of things I had heard from others about their alcohol addictions, lack of "work ethics", etc. Thus my attitudes towards all Native American Indians were biased. I learned "hatred" (prejudice) from the people around me.
Yet, the important thing to look at is our attitude... an attitude of "better than", an attitude of rejection, an attitude of not wanting certain things or persons in our life. While we all, of course, are entitled to preferences, (I shouldn't have to eat Lima beans if I don't want to), sometimes our preferences are not based on facts. An example of this is someone who says they don't like a particular food, yet they've never actually tasted it... They just have a predisposed attitude about it.
Or, in the same way, my attitude about Native American Indians was not based on my personal experience, but simply on hearsay... And judgments and hatred get propagated that way... From generation to generation, based not on personal experience, but simply on what we've heard from adults or others in our life... or maybe based a single experience that someone had that has been generalized to include a whole race, or a whole food group, or a whole country, or whatever.
While it may difficult for me and you personally to eradicate all hatred from the planet, we can certainly start with the one person in our control -- me, myself, and I. Let's reframe all our "hatreds", big and small, to preferences.
Let's first realize that all these things we "hate" and that "drive us crazy", are simply preferences on our part. Do you really hate it when your child or spouse or co-worker or neighbor does _____________ (fill in the blanks here), or would you simply prefer if they behaved differently? Examples would be "leave the toilet seat up", "leave their dirty laundry on the floor", "don't put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher", etc. etc.
Once we recognize that our hatreds are simply based on a personal preference, or on the way we think is the "right way", then we can experiment with making a different choice. Here's an example: Suppose you hate it when your child or spouse leaves their stuff laying around (a small hatred, but an insidious one in that it can contribute to your day being miserable, if you let it).
The first thing to realize is that is simply a preference on your part -- you'd prefer if they picked up their stuff. OK. Then, this is where you have a choice. You can get angry at their action (or inaction), or you can simply see it as "what is" and either pick it up yourself if you choose to, or simply let it be. Your action is less relevant than your attitude.
The key is to not choose anger or hatred (for the person or the dirty socks or yourself for being upset at it). The key is acceptance of what is. Which doesn't mean we don't work towards changing things in our life, it simply means we don't take on an attitude which includes anger, rage, hatred, etc.
Looking at the life of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as of Gandhi, these men chose non-violence as their mode-of-operation. We can do the same in our lives. We can eradicate all attitudes and thoughts of violence (hatred) from our being... before we expect the world to do the same.
It is easy to look at wars between countries, races, religions, and have a "holier than thou" attitude. Of course, we can see in those instances that hatred is a murderer, a rampant tool of destruction and evil. Yet, it is sometimes harder to see it in the minutiae of our lives. In the times we get angry at our spouse, co-workers, children, "stupid" drivers, inattentive clerks... Every instance that we choose anger and rage (which carry the same energy as hatred), we contribute to the hatred in the world.
Just as each drop of water in the ocean is the ocean, each one of us is the world. We are not separate from it. We are the world. So we need to start cleaning it up by starting with ourselves. Not by being judgmental and critical of ourselve (or others), but simply by observing ourselves and making conscious choices as we go along.
We usually live our lives on "automatic"... We act and react, many times, without making any conscious choices. We have the automatic pilot turned "on" as we go through life. This leads us to automatic and repeat behavior... impatience, anger, rejection, judgments, etc.
We "always" react the same way when we see the dirty socks on the floor, or when someone cuts us off in traffic, or when our co-worker, again, forgets to do what they were supposed to do... We have automatic reactions... and unfortunately, for most of us, a lot of times those reactions are not loving. They are sometimes based on judgment, criticism, anger, frustration... You get the picture.
The good news is that we always, each and every minute, each and every thought, have a choice. We don't have to stay on automatic pilot. We can wake up and take charge of the pilot seat.
At first, we'll still repeat a lot of the automatic behavior because, well after all, they are habits. But as we remain awake and aware, sometimes after having to nudge ourselves awake again and again, we start noticing our reactions and our thoughts. And we start realizing that we really would be much happier if we didn't spend so much time fuming at "so-and-so" and at the way things are. We start making a choice for inner peace. We start letting go of the inner rage, anger, and hatred, one reaction at a time.
The question to ask ourselves is: "Would I rather be right, or would I rather be happy?" I am not talking about not working towards changing events in our lives, but to do so with a different attitude. Just as experiments with plants have proven that plants grow better with love and harmonious sounds, in the same way the people in our lives and our whole world will "grow better" in the presence of our love, acceptance and non-judgment. In the presence of our anger and resentments, they will wither and the relationship may die. Whether we are talking about a relationship with a family member, a co-worker, or the clerk at the store, our attitude towards them and towards life will color our interaction with them.
I notice that when I am feeling at peace within myself, I go out in the world and have wonderful experiences. On the other hand, when I am feeling "yucky" for whatever reason, my experiences in the world also reflect that. So the place to start when we want to "change our world" is with ourselves.
We need to let go of the anger, rage, judgments, frustration, impatience, etc. etc. that we harbor in order to see that change reflected in the world around us. We have become used to looking for someone else to blame for our anger and frustrations with life. It is now time to let go of blame. Blame is not constructive. Blame is still a form of hatred, anger, and rage. What we need to do is simply make different choices in our lives... choices that exclude blame, hatred, resentments, grudges, etc. And choices that will being us closer to creating the world we desire to live in.
The Seven Victories of the Divine Child
by Michael Jones.
Written as a "how-to" guide, the reader is introduced to real-life, practical, and proven universal wisdom tools which can be used to overcome the seven battles we all come face to face with throughout our lives.
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com