The Antidote for Hate
Some people say that the antidote for anger and hate is love. I think that’s too easy, because the word is almost meaningless.
You can say you love someone. You can also say you love the mountains, or you love music, or books, or movies. You can say you love doughnuts. All of these statements may be true, but they don’t mean the same thing.
So, with love being so hard to define, it doesn’t seem to follow that it’s the antidote to anger or hate. In fact, a certain type of “love” can easily and quickly turn into hate — romantic love, which can be the most egocentric state, because it’s all about you, not the person you purport to love. It’s all about how they make you feel, what you want from them, what you expect from them. And when your expectations are not met, anger arises, and love is replaced by hate, because love with attachment is not different than hate. They are both manifestations of passion.
It’s not love that will free us from anger and hate — it’s compassion. Without compassion, it’s possible to be cruel to people we love; with compassion, cruelty becomes impossible, because compassion closes the gap between us and other people, other beings, the world and the universe.
I used to know a person who told me she hated me. She probably had good reason. We would have preferred never to see each other, but circumstances sometimes required otherwise. I did not reciprocate her hatred — I wished her well — but I often found myself reacting angrily to her aggression.
When I felt anger taking hold of me, I remembered a time when I had to leave her in a hospital. I remembered how small and broken she was. I remembered how she cried as I left her there, and how I cried as I drove away, because I was and am as small and broken as she was. When I remembered her face as I left her there, any feelings of anger toward her were gone, and I just wanted her to be happy.
That was not love. Nor was it pity, which is just contempt with a soft voice. It was compassion, a recognition of the suffering of all beings, which was also a recognition that the hostility shown toward me by her small, deluded ego, and the angry reaction of my small, deluded ego, were irrelevant.
Compassion is not about the self. Compassion has no expectations or attachment to outcomes, so it does not seek to control other people, because compassion does not see enough separation for there to be anyone else to control.