The H-Word

by Tracey Rich

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. -- Nelson Mandela

I have been thinking about the H-word for a long time now. This strong emotion seems to have become part of a steady diet for some, and for others the bad taste of bile rising up in the mouth. It seems to be the verb of choice for many. It has become the catchall word expressed too often, the easy go-to word to convey so many other feelings and emotions like confusion, fear, frustration, angst, anxiousness.

Whenever I would express strong distaste for something using the word hate to describe my feelings, my mother would say to me, "we don't hate." And I am grateful that her words echo in my heart and mind. What a beautiful, resonant reminder to reflect and better articulate my strong emotional response, to follow my feelings to their source to better understand and express myself, and likewise take a moment to choose.

It is easy to dislike so many things in this moment and to have extremely strong emotions. Sometimes saying you hate something is your desire to have it just go away. Our wishing for the utter annihilation of what we feel powerless to change just feels better if we hope we can hate it away.

Hating helps nothing. It inflicts itself on the one who expresses it even as it damages those it is aimed at. We have to go deeper. Please don't let your hate short-circuit your greater humanity. Anger is a good motivator to move us into action and to seek a different outcome. Hate may come easier as an expression, but in the words of Nelson Mandela, love comes more naturally to the human heart.

In these weary times of overwhelm, frustration, and anger, remember there are also moments of excitement, energy, presence, kindness, love and peace. Take to nature even as you take to the streets. Stand up or stand down when the action is clear and you have truly examined yourself. Listen to your heart and listen to your mind, there is a balance of emotion and reason to be respected. If you can't love yet, transform your hate into something more true, less harmful to yourself and others.

Moments of silence are necessary to restore ourselves. Moments of mindful practice steady us. Times of right action can make a space for transformation. We are all a work in progress. Let the H-word stand for humanity.