From The Heart

Have you ever read something that just seems to speak directly to your heart?  That happened to me recently when I was reading Fredrik Backman’s excellent novel “Beartown” and came across this passage:

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion.  The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil.  The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard.  It makes demands.  Hate is simple.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m often troubled by the amount of hatred I see in the world, and frightened by how quickly and easily it bubbles to the surface.  Organized demonstrations of hateful dogma are scary enough, but when I see the endless parade of on-line rants, name-calling and attacks on-line, I’m even more disturbed, because I see just how easily we unleash our hateful side once we’re convinced we’ve found someone who deserves it.   And as tempting as it is, I honestly don’t believe in fighting hatred with even more hatred.

For example, I am an animal-lover who spends her days working with shelter dogs, and I am sickened when I see any kind of animal abuse.  But I am also sickened when I read an article about an abused animal and see all the on-line comments calling for the abuser to be tortured and killed.  I may love animals, but I am not a sadist.  I don’t believe that the proper response to one act of evil is another act of evil.  What I really want is an end to the abuse. And there are plenty of ways to do that without becoming an abuser myself.

Believe me, I get upset when I see injustice, hatred, abuse and evil, and often my gut-level reaction is to lash out in self-righteous fury and indignation.  And sometimes I have given in to that impulse and said things in the heat of the moment that I shouldn’t have said.  Yet when I calm down, I realize that all I did was make the situation even worse by copying the very behavior that horrified me in the first place.  I allowed someone else’s hatred to take root in me, if only temporarily.  And that’s not the person I want to be.

I think it is possible to stand up to hate without being hateful, just as it is possible to stop abuse without becoming an abuser.  We don’t have to leave our best selves behind when we oppose evil, and we certainly don’t have to follow the example of the very people whose actions horrify us in the first place.

As Fredrik Backman so eloquently pointed out, hatred is easy and love is hard. But when it comes right down to it, I want to choose love.

89 thoughts on “From The Heart

  1. I was just thinking this recently when I was reading something on my Instagram. It was an angry post in response to the recent violence in VA. It was hateful. Hate does breed hate. What has happened to peaceful resistance? I do understand for standing up for what we believe is wrong…certainly we must. But to do it by acting just as horribly as the perpetrators simply doesn’t make sense to me.

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    • That’s exactly what got me thinking about this. Peaceful resistance doesn’t seem to be an option for many people…which is exactly how wars are started. We have to do better. We can stand up to hate without becoming haters ourselves!

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      • I love this post, Ann. You absolutely nailed it. A bit of understanding may go a long way, but after reading an article yesterday–one where a reformed white supremacist was interviewed–I’m more perplexed. He stated that those in such groups need to feel they belong, they need an identity, a sense of purpose. If that is the case, why choose a hate group? I feel it goes back to THE FAMILY and a breakdown there. She claimed otherwise, but how could the mother of the young man who murdered Heather Heyer not know? How could Adam Lanza’s mother (or father) not know? There is a break somewhere and some kids are not getting what they need. Mental illness needs to be addressed. We need to stop turning our heads when we think/sense/know something is wrong. Yes, WE MUST DO BETTER. Thank you, Ann, for a great post.

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        • Thanks so much! And thanks for sharing about that article. I wonder if maybe the lack of family support causes a void so big that young people join any group that accepts them and pays attention to them, even if it is a hate group? I think I’ve read where most gangs get their members from kids who come from homes where they aren’t supported and the gang becomes their “family” and gives them identity. It’s hard to know for sure, and I have to admit that I can’t personally understand wanting to join a hate group for any reason. And I agree that there is a breakdown that needs to be addressed and that mental illness probably plays a part. We can’t pretend this isn’t happening.

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  2. It is so easy (too easy) to quickly judge, label and condemn. It is not so easy to see the world from their perspective, because that entails getting some insight into their background.

    Do we really believe that drug addicts thought it would be really cool to become addicted? A very bad decision without doubt but deliberate? Of course not, so why don’t we try and help them rather than pretend they don’t exist?

    Should we really be so surprised that youth in a Southern State are still racially prejudiced. If their upbringing and education brought no new perspectives into their lives, then why would we expect change? Racial prejudice needs to be addressed aggressively through all religions and throughout the education system. Education is the key to resolving so many issues.

    You can no more hate and expect harmony as a result, anymore than you can kill somebody and expect long term peace as the outcome. That is not that difficult to grasp is it?

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  3. I agree whole heartedly. Even when I see those who commit crimes, I feel such sadness for them and their family. I wonder, where did things go wrong for them. Anger happens but it needn’t cause hate. This was anespecially thought provoking post-thank you

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  4. Thank you Ann for stating this so eloquently. I also feel a lot of pain when I see or hear about abuse of animals… but I also understand that those who inflict pain are coming from a place of pain themselves. They don’t know any better. Ignorance and conditioning is an epidemic passed from one generation to the next, and it causes so much suffering in the world.
    I find it incredibly sad and dismaying, that so many people are lost in this way. What you are doing is so important. We must all work towards bringing harmony and love, especially to those who can’t fend for themselves.
    🙏

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    • Thanks, Val, for understanding what I was trying to say… Which comes as no surprise to anyone who reads your blog! We can hate what people say and do without hating the person, because I do believe that almost all evil comes from some sort of lack in the person perpetuating it. They truly don’t know better, but we do.

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  5. I never thought about it in the way you both explained but it’s true…hate is a very easy emotion to express. It takes nothing from us, it just spews its disgust in whatever direction it chooses. It requires no substance or self worth from the individual(s) who choose this path. They are not worth our time, and yet, their actions continue to invade our lives.
    Terrific post, as usual, Ann.

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    • Thank you, George. You know I always value your opinion and comments. It took me a while to write this post, because I had to get my thoughts and feelings in order. But what it finally boiled down to was that I have no desire to become the mirror image of the exact thing that disgusts me so. I have to do better than that, and I have to be better than that.

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  6. I’m with you!
    My heart is good, but oh my mouth…! It’s a real struggle for me to not use my words in hateful ways. You’ve heard this one: that the root of sarcasm is sarcare, which means “to tear flesh.” Your post was absolutely timely, and what we need to be be focusing more of our energies on!
    ‘Nuff said.

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  7. Each day I pray a prayer I created for myself:
    Lord, help me to see the best and not the worst,
    Help me to treat each with respect, not as an object,
    Help me to be a blessing and not a curse,
    And help me to live today better than yesterday.

    The line “help me to treat each with respect, not as an object” came out of the realization that wec an only hate a fellow human being when we see them as an object. If we believe the Scriptures are true, then we must acknowledge that all human beings are made in the image of God. And if all are made in God’s image and we mistreat another human being and hate them, aren’t we committing a sacrilege. I think so. All of this came out of reading Martin Buber’s wonderful book, “I and Thou”. And believing that we all are connected. I think that is the lesson Jesus and Gandhi and Dr. King taught.

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    • What a beautiful prayer, Don! And one that can help all of us, I think. I completely agree that we can only hate someone, truly hate them, when we think of them as less than a person. The sacredness of each person is a belief that is common to most religions for a reason. We can hate what someone says or does, but I think you are right that actually hating a person is a sacrilege. Sadly, the internet has made it so easy to tap into our hateful side and I think that we are seeing the results of that all too often.
      And now I’m going to write down the words to your prayer so I can remember them. Thanks!

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  8. we all have goodness in our hearts and we need to help each other to bring that to the surface so that it washes away our negative emotions …

    I don’t like harm in any form and on one beach walk a fisherman was just pulling a baby shark in. My initial reaction was to say something but I realised it would not be kind so I bit my tongue and turned away. Just as I did that all these people appeared from nowhere and collectively told him he had to throw the baby shark back … I couldn’t have done it better! So best not to react with agro, stay calm and good things can happen 🙂

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    • Yep, calm reasoning can work wonders, can’t it? Sometimes it seems as if people think the only two responses we can have to something we object to are silence or attack. And yet neither is effective in making a positive change.
      (I would have had the same reaction to the shark. I don’t like to watch people fish because I feel sorry for the worms.)

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  9. This is from Hans Fiene, a Lutheran minister

    Internet Outrage Is an Addiction
    Just like gambling or sex, outrage can become a process addiction—a form of behavior that our bodies come to rely on to feel good. The mechanics of anger addiction are simple. When we erupt in anger, our brains get a hit of dopamine, which yields a sense of euphoria. Just as drug users will quickly become dependent on their substance of choice to get that euphoria, those who overindulge in outrage will often end up relying on that behavior to release the desired dopamine.

    It’s easy to see how this addiction plays out online, Twitter perhaps being the best example. Man A wakes up in the morning, immediately reaches for his smartphone and finds, via those he follows for this sort of stuff, an article about Today’s Sinner, the one who must be shamed and ridiculed for being a woman hater or minority hater or cop hater or animal hater. Man A then begins spewing insults and vitriol at this person, then repeats the cycle the next day.

    In other words, Man A wakes up in the morning, feeling miserable and wanting a dopamine release. So he goes to his dealer, who offers him something to be angry about—the newer and better fix-du-jour. Man A then explodes in anger at someone he very well may never have heard of before and will likely forget all about in a few days. He enjoys the dopamine hit for a moment, then finds a new target and repeats the cycle as soon as the high wears off.

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    • I love how I can always count on you to cut to the heart of the matter in a concise and accessible way!
      This article makes so much sense….I don’t do Twitter, but I can’t tell you how many people I see on Facebook posting again and again about their outrage at (insert today’s outrage here). And I think, why do they do that? Now I think you are correct, in that they are actually addicted to their outrage. And sadly, spreading it….
      The worst thing is it changes no one’s mind, doesn’t resolve anything and doesn’t move us one step forward toward dealing with some very serious issues. Thanks, Greg….I really do appreciate your comments.

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    • Yes, we are capable of so much good, but all too often our first impulse is to lash out. So we have to fight that, but as you say, it’s more than worth the struggle!

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    • I think we all have. And honestly, we’re basically encouraged to do that in areas like politics and religion, as though being in relationship with someone who holds different beliefs is actually a bad thing. It’s not…it’s the only way to understand other people and the only hope to work together to improve. Thanks for the comment!

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    • It’s a very good book, and I would definitely recommend it! I like all of his books, but in my opinion, Beartown is his best. And thanks for your comment. I know it’s hard to respond to hate with love, but I also believe that in the long run, it’s the only thing that actually works.

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  10. Ann, this is the most profound commentary I’ve seen on this whole affair yet. Thank you for that. I would love for this message to spread. Would you mind if I re-post it on sustainable health?

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  11. Many years ago I read some of the short stories of Somerset Maughan. One thing I remember about his writing is one key statement he made, which perfectly fits the theme of your well written post. “Love is eternal, hatred dies every minute” If you think about this statement, it gives a hopeful message for all who make the effort to conquer hatred. Thank you, dear Ann, for another inspirational post!

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    • I love Somerset Maughan, particularly his short stories. And I love that quote! Thanks very much for sharing it, as I hadn’t remembered it at all. It does give a very hopeful message to all of us who believe that love is stronger than hate! Thanks, Peter!!

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  12. “I may love animals, but I am not a sadist.” Wonderful line. I love, love, love this post. You are bringing reason into a country that has lost all reason. You are calmly and reasonably powerful.

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    • Thanks, Barb! Yes, I am so dismayed by how often I see people to responding to hate with even more hate, and abuse with even more abuse. It just makes things worse…. Like the time I saw a comment from someone who said that he wants to douse Trump supporters with gasoline and then throw lighted matches at them. Because, you know, he’s against the hate that Trump spreads. Seriously? We have to rise above this! We can’t become infected with hate, or violence, or anything that doesn’t demand we bring out best selves to the table. We have to model the behavior we want to see, I think. It’s the only way forward out of this mess….

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      • I agree. However, not counting the sadistic crazy people you reference, I’m always torn between staying silent and being part of the problem, and voicing opinion and hopefully adding voice towards a solution/resolution. Which, of course does not involve hate at all. I struggle with that.

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        • Oh, I think it is absolutely okay to voice an opinion, as long as it is done in a civil way that doesn’t tear other people down. That’s what we seem to have lost: the ability to discuss things from various points of views, without actually attacking people. Because if we want to change someone’s mind, we have to get them to actually listen to us. And that doesn’t happen if they feel attacked…they just attack back!
          But I do understand what you mean about hesitating before voicing an opinion, particularly online. Sometimes I hesitate too because I’m afraid that what I said will be taken the wrong way and/or provoke and angry response. And that’s really sad, because it means we are allowing the hatred to silence the voices of anyone who isn’t in complete agreement.

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