“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” -Buddha
People have a hard time accepting the idea that human beings are inherently good at their core. If love is our true nature then why is the world filled with so much hate and suffering? Others argue that some people are capable of love but others are inherently evil. Human beings are not only capable of love, it’s our truest nature.
The universal path to peace, happiness, and enlightenment is love. When I talk about true love I don’t mean romance or desire. True love is a limitless and universal state; the true nature of all human beings.
Hate is packaged fear.
Hate is one of the strongest and most effective defense mechanisms. Hate can bounce our fears off of ourselves and points them at others. Hateful people are often ignorant, fearful, and insecure. In other cases, hateful people have been hurt in the past and create hateful defense mechanisms to protect their damaged heart.
Think of a woman who was abused by men in her past. She grows up afraid of men, terrified of being vulnerable, and full of confusion and anger. These are packaged up into a strong and powerful hate that allow her to put distance between her and every man she encounters. Rather than seeing men in her life as human beings, she sees them as this fear, anger, and pain. A combination of negative experience and perspective can make hate feel easy and natural.
It feels liberating to let go of hate.
Does it feel good to hate? Does it feel good to be angry?
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha
Think of someone that you know to be an angry and hateful person. These people are often miserable in their own lives and just as often feel hate for themselves. Think of a loving and selfless person. People who radiate love and compassion are more capable of self-love, joy, and contentment. So why do people choose hate?
It’s harder to be soft.
Reaching enlightenment and reaching our highest state is a lifelong path of choosing love over hate, and it isn’t easy. When we experience suffering in our life, when we are hurt or wronged, it’s much easier to close up our heart and become hateful.
Hate is cowardly and easy. Choosing to “turn the other cheek” or “take the high road” can often mean letting go of our ego. It takes courage to be loving to hateful people. When we see violent acts of hate we too can feel hate toward these perpetrators. Hate breeds fear and more hate.
Choosing to be soft is one of the most challenging things to do in hateful situations. This is why being loving and compassionate doesn’t show weakness, it shows incredible strength.
Love feels natural and peaceful.
When we love others and experience self-love we feel a rush of joyous peace and contentment. This is a sign that love is our most natural state; it feels right. Our entire being and soul feels nourished and complete in the presence of real love.
The Four Qualities of Unconditional Love
Thich Nhat Hanh spoke of four main qualities of love in his book Teachings on Love. The qualities are drawn from the Buddhist tradition and outline what real love involves. These qualities can be practiced and help heal anger, insecurity, sadness, hatred, loneliness, and other toxic states.
1. Love (Maitri)
Maitri can be translated to mean loving-kindness. The word love is thrown around so freely. How can we say that we love chocolate and then hesitate in telling a partner that we love them? We love a new song, we love going on vacation, we love our dog, we love our mother. All of the ways in which we love these things are entirely different.
Loving-kindness and love in the Buddhist tradition is more closely linked to friendship. Unconditional love is a powerful energy that gives without expecting anything in return. This kind of love is not desire or fleeting; this love is the deep understanding of another individual and the desire to offer joy and happiness to them.
All humans are capable of being loving. Underneath fear, pain, anger, and resistance there is a space filled with the capacity to give love.
2. Compassion (Karuna)
Karuna is the capacity to transform suffering. Compassion involves close attention to the suffering in the world without being consumed by it. It’s possible to be compassionate and simultaneously undisturbed. The hate in the world can feel overwhelming at times.
Thich Nhat Hanh can smile despite suffering because he maintains clarity, calmness and strength. If we radiate compassion to the suffering we can bring joy and comfort into the world. This ability to hold on to our own happiness while sharing it with others is largely what helps end the suffering of others.
3. Joy (Mudita)
The experience of joy is different than that of happiness. Joy is a state of mind that is content and peaceful. Our well-being feels good in this state. Real love allows both individuals to feel this joy.
Living in the present moment can bring us joy. Enjoying the little things as well as large accomplishments can all produce joy. Hate does not feel joyous. Hate is more often bred from a deep sadness or anger.
Of course, love isn’t always easy, but a healthy and true love should not bring about constant pain and sadness. Joy should be present when love is present.
4. Equanimity (Upeksha)
This final element is that of nonattachment. Individuals in unhealthy relationships can feel obsessive attachment or clinging. This is not true love.
Equanimity also largely involves loving without discrimination. Love sees everyone as equal. Love involves shedding any illusion of difference. Just as a mother unconditionally loves all of her children, real love is just as bountiful and far-reaching.
Be loving today. Practice compassion for the individuals suffering around the world as a result of acts of hate. Do not participate in hate, even if it’s directed toward the perpetrators of these heinous acts. Let it start with you. Let love be the path you choose and allow your actions to reflect this love in every person you encounter today.