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. Fredrik Backman
Speaking from personal experience, teenage girls are mean.
We will never have friends or enemies like we did when we were 14. Thank heavens!
When you are 14 years old, friends are everything, elation and devastation.
At 14, we struggle to distance ourselves from our decidedly uncool parents. We deal with erratic ebbs and flows of emotion-altering hormones. Our brains try hard to catch up with our newly adult-looking bodies.
Acceptance into a group of friends helps to ameliorate the angst.
When I was 14, I ran around with a coterie of five classmates.
To say that there were shifting alliances within our group is an understatement. We were a regular ninth-grade soap opera.
For reasons still unknown to me, four of our group members decided one of the girls in our clique was beneath contempt.
They developed a phrase, “My braces hurt“, that was code for “Kim is a doofus“. (Several girls in the group wore orthodontia.)
Whenever Kim said something slightly goofy, the other girls would roll their eyes and smirk, “My braces hurt”.
I am proud to say I didn’t go along with the four mean girls in our group but ashamed that I didn’t do more to stand up to them, either. When they began complaining about their braces, my response was to say to Kim, “C’mon Kim, let’s go.”
My breaking point came one day when one of the girls told Kim, “I hate you.“
Hate was too much. I distanced myself from the mean girls in the clique.
Hate is a confusing mixture of fear, rage, anger, resentment, and contempt.
One factor that hate needs to survive is a target. We can and do love indiscriminately. To be a really successful hater, we must direct our loathing at a specific something. Or someone.
Nothing is as reassuring as banding together to hate as a group. We give each other permission to feel the basest emotion directed at others. We are in; they are out.
We construct reasonable stories, excuses for our hate, then turn them into clever memes and share them on social media.
We ridicule the objects of our hate, demean them. It is almost as though they deserve to be the recipients of our scorn. It’s their fault, after all.
Our targets are perceived as less than. Less than respectable. Less than worthy. Less than human. Certainly less than us. Evil.
Here is the thing about hate, though: it’s corrosive. Just like acid, hate dissolves our souls and leaches away our better selves.
Hate harms both the hater and the hated.
We don’t welcome hate. We feel ashamed to be tagged with that emotion.
In one study, subjects were asked to describe an episode where they felt hate. Every subject, 100% of those surveyed, denied ever experiencing it. Almost no one admits to being a racist, for example.
But hate persists.
To reduce the level of hate in our world, someone must have the courage to go first. Someone with influence must be the first to denounce hate. All it takes is one strong person from the “in” group. Others will follow that lead.
Could you be that person?
It’s not easy making the first ripple. Most of us avoid making waves at all costs.
Speaking up against hate, supporting its victims, and creating appealing alternatives to hateful speech, symbols, and actions are good ways to begin.
If the opposite of love is indifference, the way to combat hate is through engagement.
It is up to each person. We must do this for ourselves.
We must all take a good, hard look at the darker corners of our psyche. Shine a flashlight. Search around. Root out the hidden hate in our lives. Don’t tolerate it on social media or in person.
The mean girls from my long-ago teenage years eventually came around. I don’t know why.
Maybe the chemical imbalance initiated by puberty abated. Maybe their fear of impending changes decreased. Maybe by distancing ourselves from the group, Kim and I removed the target of their hate.
Maybe they just grew up a little bit.
By the time we graduated, the six of us were thick as thieves once again.
I will never forget, though, at one reunion years after graduation when a middle-aged Kim asked me a question I was not prepared to answer.
“What did ‘My braces hurt’ mean?” she asked.
The detritus of hate can last a lifetime.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20
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