Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fear & Loathing

Hatred is a learned thing. As sung by Lt. Cable in South Pacific, "You have to be carefully taught." Think about it - babies don't know hate. They know fear. When that fear hits them, they either cower, cry, or run away. Somewhere along the line, we're taught to turn that fear into hate. We're given orders to not trust people who "look like that" or "behave like this." Fear turns to distrust and prejudice which ferments into an unpalatable jug of hate.

We've all been there. We all know hate from both sides of the coin. We meet someone from a certain race, religion, pursuit, etc., and suddenly an icy internal claw curls around our hearts and squeezes tight. We feel somehow justified in that hate - we were taught that it's okay. Yet if we were to travel to other parts of the world, we'd be equally despised based on our looks and language. We'd be judged as the Ugly American - an arrogant, self-serving person - no matter who we really are. It doesn't even have to be someone from another race or creed. We've learned to loathe fat people, skinny people, people with long hair, people who aren't sparklingly clean all the time, poor people, rich people, disabled people... the list goes on. The slightest excuse will give us reason enough to despise another human being. We learned how to do that.

Often a quality we hate in others is one we refuse to acknowledge in ourselves. Classic example, a friend once said to me, "I hate her. She's always complaining and back-biting!" I replied, "Uh huh. And... tell me, what is it you think you're doing right now?"

The good thing is that learned behaviors can be "unlearned." We can choose to override those learned behaviors with education and understanding. This was brought home to me years and years ago by a spider. Yup. A regular old, garden variety spider. I hated spiders. I hated hearing the word "spider." Just hearing about them made my mouth turn down, my shoulders hunch, and my skin crawl - it's some pretty strong hate when it manifests physically like that. Then one day a friend said, "You should see the beautiful spider that's out in the garden! It's spun a gorgeous web and its got really striking markings!" My eyes narrowed as I said, "No thanks. I hate spiders." She wouldn't take no for an answer. She grabbed my arm and hauled me outside, up to a bush next to the patio, and pointed.

I summoned my courage. I decided I wasn't going to let a thing 1/3 the size of my pinkie nail push me around. I looked where she pointed. It was a beautiful spider. We spent the better part of a half hour watching it move around and finish spinning its web. From then on I paid attention when I saw spiders. I turned my fear into curiosity and curiosity turned into respect. Don't get me wrong. I don't want one for a pet, but I no longer hate them.

What is it or who is it you hate? Your hatred comes from fear and anger generated from that fear. So, ask yourself what it is about them (or it) that you fear, that makes you angry. Get curious. Then learn. Education is key to ending hatred. It doesn't mean you have to love that person (or group of people), or love who they are or what they are, but it can take you a long way towards tolerance and acceptance. All it takes is a little understanding (knowledge) to bring down barriers. I guarantee you will learn much about yourself in this process, and maybe you'll even learn to hate yourself a little less.


  1. Barb,

    very well said! I'm glad I visited your page and I'll be back. Oh yes...I'll be back. Muhahahahaha.

  2. Hmmm, I want to say I do not hate anything or anyone. But...I do have contempt for things and people. I am quick to judge and am critical. But I also can have deep and genuine empathy for almost everyone. I agree tho...hate is learned. You have to cultivate it and feed it.


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