I’ve been thinking, prompted in part by a comment from Chowbok who said:
Hatred is the easiest of emotions to invoke.
Is it possible to be trenchantly, even violently opposed to what you perceive as wrongdoing without slipping into HATRED of the perpetrator?
If we agree (you and I) that bitterness of spirit is a dangerous and toxic thing, how do we keep a clear vision, maintain our standards (which implies rejecting some actions and behaviours as, at least, ‘inappropriate’) … without slipping into the slimy pool of ill-will?
However virtuous one’s starting point, it seems there is what some call ‘spiritual risk’ involved whenever we exercise discernment.
Like radioactivity pioneers Pierre and Marie Curie, who died of diseases caused by exposure to the very radiation they studied — can a ‘crusader for right’ become contaminated, or infected (even mutated?) by the object of their attention?
Choose your enemies carefully, for you will become like them.
Some call this proverb History’s most ironic lesson. Whatever you think of the ‘spiritual risk’ aspect, the truth of the proverb is, sadly, often borne out by the record of human history. Victims can, in turn, become victimisers. (Examples, anyone?)
A variation of the proverb is:
Choose your enemies carefully for they DEFINE you.
A song on rock band U2’s No Line On The Horizon album contains this:
Choose your enemies carefully, ’cause they will define you/
Make them interesting, because in some ways they will mind you/
They’re not there in the beginning, but when your story ends/
Gonna last longer with you than your friends.
— from Cedars of Lebanon
As we’ve seen, anyone who expresses an opinion or takes a principled stand against others’ actions is liable to stir up anger and hatred. (That’s why we resist doing so. Fear of that reaction. The bully, the liar, and the oppressor count on this fear.)
So, Question: Is it possible to take a stand without succumbing to strong negative feelings oneself? What if those strong feelings are needed to ‘motivate’ us?
Mahatma Ghandi‘s ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner‘ overstates it … but goes towards what I’m asking.
Bitterness, we agree is unhealthy.
So, surely, is unforgiveness.
On the other hand, I’m sure those who turn a blind eye to wrongdoing, who never express any opinion about bad behaviour, espousing ‘live-and-let-live’ as their credo (or ‘retaining their neutrality in a time of moral crisis’ as JFK said) pay a price inside.
They can be seen — even by themselves, more’s the pity — as cowards, spineless or wilfully inattentive or inconclusive.
The invocation of ‘Judge not, lest you be judged’ is also used to cover much cowardice, in my opinion. (What do you think?)
Some things are worth resisting: prejudice, bigotry, injustice, persecution.
As Chowbok eloquently asked: “Are ideas worth dying for?” Are principles? That’s a tough one.
For my own part, whether I choose my enemies or they choose me, I know there are some things I will not do, some lines I will not cross … But why? What’s the drive? What makes me so? Truthfully, I don’t know. How successful can anyone be at identifying their own motivations (let alone someone else’s!)?
I just know that, for instance, I aim not to abuse trust. I try to be honest, to be the same person in all circumstances, to be authentic and not be two-faced. Do I fail? Yes, of course I fail.
While I disapprove of, even hold contempt for the actions of some who call me their ‘enemy’ or accuse me of ‘attacking’, ‘discrediting’ or ‘humiliating’ them … I don’t think I HATE them.
I remember John Burley’s dad Bob used to say:
‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’
I took from that: By all means give people a chance, but if they demonstrate to you by their actions that they can’t be trusted, DON’T keep giving them a second, third, fourth chance. Don’t be a sucker.
Question: If animosity or hate is the radiation, how do we protect ourselves? What’s the lead blanket? Any ideas?