Unrequited Hate

In PeaceAble on December 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm

We are no happier with unrequited hate than with unrequited love.
We desire that those about whom we feel something should feel it towards us equally. Otherwise, how do we justify it? How do we sustain it? How do we complete the circle of the emotion?
We feel this way, at least, in the beginning, when the relationship is new, the emotion fresh, and the blood still hot with the passion of it. Later we may see love change, or hate change, and we can reconcile to that in time; learn a new emotion, a new relationship; keep in our memories – the memories of our hearts – those first feelings of love or hate; but move on.
But when that first flush of passion is unrequited, we feel foolish, ignored, hurt. How is it that the other does not feel as we do? We want to make them feel it! We will declare it, profess it, make it important. The other must know our feelings and return them! Else how shall we go on?
We need to act on the emotions and want to require the other to act as well. What if someone called a war and nobody showed up? What if we called a war and only one side showed up? These are two different situations. In the first instance, there is a common, even if unstated, agreement not to fight. There is a rejection of violence altogether. But the second instance is more complicated. One side is prepared for war, desires war, needs war for some reason. The other side rejects that. This requires some kind of response from the first. But what response?
A lot depends on the relative power of the two sides. If a weak opponent refuses to fight, then the stronger attacker will become a conqueror, perhaps mocking the weaker as he attacks. This is the schoolyard bully, beating up a smaller kid and all the time telling him to “fight back, you wuss, you coward.” But if the one who refuses to fight is as powerful as, or more powerful than, the attacker, then something else happens. The attacker’s own weakness becomes evident. This is the would-be bully, swinging wildly at someone he can’t beat, landing punch after punch, but to no effect. This is also the situation of masses of people standing up to an oppressive authority, taking hit after hit and still standing up again and again. Such action has brought down more than one tyrant, expelled more than one colonial power.
But we too often tell ourselves what the bully tells us. If we don’t fight back, then we are weak, cowardly. We allow ourselves to believe that in order to defeat the enemy, we must become the enemy, act as the enemy is acting. Fight fire with fire.
Every interaction with another human being establishes and develops a relationship between us and the other. In every action we take, we can act to protect and defend ourselves as the primary goal of the action, or we can act to nurture and support the relationship as the primary goal. For every protective and defensive action there is a nurturing and supportive counteraction. This is the principle on which assertiveness is based and the principle on which civil disobedience is based.
Unfortunately, it is always simpler to respond to negative action with negative counteractions. If someone strikes out at us, it is simple to strike back in kind. The two actions seem balanced and appropriate. The problem is that they also lead to escalation of the conflict as each person attempts to overpower the other and end the conflict. If someone hits me and I hit him back, this will continue until one of us hits the other hard enough to disable the other from responding. If I know this in advance, then I may be tempted to use my most powerful response first in order to end the conflict as quickly as possible and to suffer as little harm to myself as I can manage. If the other knows this in advance, he may begin the conflict by using his most powerful weapon preemptively, so that I cannot strike back at all.
But hatred is always about ego. It is an ego response to genuine feelings of grief or anger or disappointment. What we want is not just for the other to acknowledge our feelings, but to take responsibility for them, to atone for them. We need satisfaction more than resolution. We have become our feelings. And therein lies the answer.
If we name our feelings as hatred, then we give up ownership of the feelings themselves. We try to get the other to take the feelings from us, so that we don’t have to bear them ourselves. And since the other will not willingly take on what is not the other’s burden, then we are left with new grief, new anger, new disappointment or frustration; and new justification for hatred.
But if we can name our feelings as they are; if we can say, “I am grieving,” or “I am angry, “or “I am disappointed or frustrated.” If we can see the truth of our feelings, then we can legitimately ask the other to acknowledge those feelings. If we can make the connection between the other’s actions and our feelings, but still see that the feelings are our own, then we can ask the other to take responsibility for the other’s actions and acknowledge their connection to our feeings.
When conflict happens and we are hurt, then this is perhaps the first step in a peaceable response. When we first hear ourselves saying “I hate,” then we need to step back from that and say “no, I feel.”
The second step is to remember that the other is not us, does not share our feelings, perhaps does not even understand them. We can love unconditionally; love the other even if the other does not love us. Our collective art and literature are filled with lessons of unconditional love. Our spiritual texts tell us the virtues of it. But we cannot hate unconditionally. We are not taught how to hate those who do not hate us back. When we hate someone who does not hate us, then we cannot sustain that hate; and if they insist on loving us back, then it begins to take so much energy, to cost us so much, to continue to hate them, that soon there is no path but to either stop hating or to turn the hatred inward.
When someone wants us to go to war, we are often told that the enemy hates us, and we are asked to hate them in return. To live peaceably, we must learn the action of positive unrequited hate.

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