Can hate ever serve us? And what might happen if we were to get rid of our hateful feelings and replace them with love and understanding?
Let’s consider what happened to TEDxSydney 2017 speaker, Jordan Raskopoulos, when she set a New Year’s resolution a few years ago to stop being hateful.
Unlike the vast majority of people who leave their resolutions for dead just weeks or even days into the new year, Jordan took her resolution quite seriously- a decision which had an unexpectedly profound impact.
“It really changed my life because I decided not to hold on to hateful feelings, and to not hate. I challenged myself to approach difficult situations or difficult relationships without anger or hate, but with love and understanding, and those sorts of things.
Jordan confessed that the decision to replace habitual responses of hostility or loathing, with sentiments of love and forgiveness, was very difficult to put into practice.
“I found it was quite easy to be slighted by someone, or for someone to do something unforgivable and to just hate them, and for that to be ok… But when I made the decision that I didn’t want hate in my life, I just didn’t want to be a hateful person. It was a big decision, to go ‘I need to forgive a bunch of people’, and that means I need to approach a bunch of relationships, and take responsibility for those relationships as well.”
The challenge to act from a place of love became even more difficult in the face of Jordan’s gender transition.
“This decision [to not hate] came before I transitioned, and since I’ve been transitioning there are a lot more people who hate me, or hate the way that I live, so it has been a challenge to not hate them back. There were people in my life who were awful. Who did awful things– the kind of things that you would cut someone off for. Once I decided that I couldn’t do that any more, then I said, ‘Well, what is my normal situation if that’s something that I can’t do?’
So exactly what did Jordan do? And exactly how does one become more loving? How can we forgive others if they are behaving in a way that is beyond the bounds of what we are prepared to accept, let alone love?
Although Jordan jokingly admits, “I still hate some people!” her commitment to usurp hatred with love has been both effective and sustainable. She adopts what I consider to be extreme personal leadership- by claiming full responsibility not only for her response and behaviour, but also by claiming responsibility for the antagonist, wanting to help them through their own expressions of animosity or intolerance.
“I decided that I’m responsible for helping this [hostile] person be a better version of themselves. They’re still going to exist in my community, they are going to be around. If there’s someone like that and if I’m not allowed to hate them, then I have to be responsible for helping them. I think that’s a really hard thing, but a really important thing within communities, to support awful people. Because if you don’t support awful people they become more awful, and their awfulness turns to bitterness.”
I can’t help but imagine the potential power if another 20, or 100, or 1000+ people were to take on Jordan’s new year resolution.
Of course, we don’t need to wait for a new year- the resolution is there for the taking whenever we are.