This is going to be another long-winded entry, but it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to so bear with me.
Dean has an entry titled The Healthy Nature of Hate up over at his blog wherein he discusses how that particular emotion has a bad rap and he asks some interesting questions:
You think that hate is, all by itself, a bad thing? If so, I would like to ask you a few simple questions:
Can love become perverse and destructive? Can joy ever be inappropriate? Can weeping ever become excessive? Can nurturing reach a point of excess? Think hard on it before you answer those questions.
Without doubt, Hate is a powerful and dangerous emotion. It is a deeply destructive emotion. But so is love. So is despair, and so is elation. Every one of these emotions can be perverted and twisted. Every one of them can come to dominate your life, and every one of them can sicken and twist your soul, if you let them overcome you.
That said? In its place, kept under control like any other emotion, I assert that Hate is a healthy emotion. An utterly appropriate emotion, in fact, so long as, like all other emotions, it is kept in its place.
I don’t really disagree with his stance on the subject, but there wouldn’t be much point in writing this entry if I didn’t have some thoughts on it. I do agree that Hate is no more invalid an emotion than any other and that it’s perfectly normal to feel it at times; probably even appropriate in certain situations. I also agree that other emotions can just as easily be perverted and twisted to become as, or more, destructive when they are taken to extremes.
Dean touches on the point I’m about to make in the last line I quoted above: The issue shouldn’t really be about whether or not Hate is a “bad” emotion because it is, indeed, a perfectly normal and healthy thing to feel from time to time. The issue should be what you do with that emotion as that’s what really matters in the end. This is true whether we’re speaking of Hate, Love, Jealousy, Grief or what have you.
I feel there are three generalized possibilities for what one can do with any strong emotion when it happens upon them.
- They can sit around and experience it without taking any action (e.g. in regards to Hate, to sit and stew about it, as the saying goes).
- They can decide to do something constructive with the emotion.
- Or they can decide to do something destructive with the emotion.
The first option might seem pointless, but can be a good choice if the emotion is something like Anger or Hate and the person feels most inclined to do something negative with it. Depending on the source of the emotion it may pass if you just sit still for awhile and let the emotion flow.
Option two is the one most people would like to choose more often than not and, in the case of the negative emotions, can often be the most difficult to do. Still, there are all manner of news items where people who channeled their anger or hate of something into a positive accomplishment that benefited themselves as well as others around them. Even then, however, not everyone will agree with what constitutes a positive action.
Option three is the most potentially “bad” choice depending on the actions undertaken and is often the choice taken despite our best intentions. Just how bad a choice it actually is, however, is entirely dependent on what those actions are.
For example, just sitting around and bitching about someone you hate isn’t as bad as going out and trying to actually harm them would be. Which isn’t to say that bitching can’t be damaging as it certainly could be to any relationship you may have with said person should they hear about it (e.g. your boss), but it’s still probably preferable to bodily harm in most situations. I say “most situations” as it could also be argued that attempts at bodily harm against someone you hate aren’t always a bad thing either if, say, you happen to be citizens living under the rule of a tyrant whom you hate (read: Saddam, Stalin, etc.).
Obviously there are no truly cut and dried rules you can apply to any strong emotion, least of all Hate, and the appropriateness of any actions will often be judged differently by various individuals and groups depending on their viewpoints of the situation. This is why I would argue that the attempts to emphasize “good” versus “bad” emotions should be dropped in favor of encouraging more consideration on how we respond to our emotions and why we’re feeling them.
One of the great realizations I’ve managed to come to in my life was the simple fact that I am a human being. Let me emphasize that point: I am a HUMAN BEING.
Most people know this about themselves, but few really understand what it means. In short it means I’m not, nor should I expect to be, perfect.
At length it means that I will from time to time feel great love and intense hate, giddy elation and massive depression, intense sympathy and raging anger, boundless compassion and stunning selfishness all at different times and often to varying degrees and that’s perfectly normal, healthy and OK. Not only is it OK, but I should embrace this fact as all of these things combined are part of what makes life worth living.
Ultimately then it’s what I do with those emotions that will determine how good or bad a person I am in the long run and even then there will be some people who will look back on my life and judge me as a bad person while others look back and judge me as a good one. My goal then is to try to have fewer of the former and more of the latter when my final breath leaves my lips.
I try to do this by, as Dean mentions, keeping my emotions under control and considering the why behind them as well as what my response to them will be. Still, I’m not perfect so sometimes my emotions get the better of me and I end up acting irrationally, but that’s what makes me human and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I’m done acting like an idiot I try to learn from the experience and do better the next time a strong emotion sets in. If I caused any damage in my irrationality and it’s with people who are important to me in some way then I try to repair what I can and accept what I can’t undo.
It is my hope that I will leave most people feeling their lives have been enriched for having encountered me in their travels through life, but I don’t hold any illusions that everyone will feel that way.
There was more from Dean’s entry that I was going to comment on, but this is already pretty wordy and I’ve said what I really wanted to say so I’ll stop here.