Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tell Me About It!

The first seven steps of the strategy for curbing hate have been explored in the previous posts. The final three may not be as simple. Let's see if we can make our way through them.

The eighth step is to avoid being/feeling trapped. It is when we are trapped or powerless and our fear is highest that we easily slip into hating that which has you trapped. Maybe you feel trapped in a relationship, a job, a situation, a conflict. In order to avoid this feeling you'll need to use all of the previous steps, particularly communication and negotiation. You may feel trapped in a job, for instance, start hating to go to work, hating your boss, or hating the organization. To change that you might start by letting people know in a constructive way what specifically you are unhappy with. If possible negotiate some changes. If there really is nothing you can do to change things you might start exploring opportunities elsewhere. Or you might try to put things in a different perspective by viewing your frustrations as creative challenges that can lead to a new level of personal growth.

I was in a job once that I came to hate. I was frustrated that I was not being given the kind of work experiences that I had been promised and there was little chance that it would ever be resolved. There was no chance for me to use the job to get the experience I needed to advance my career. The reason I'd taken that job was no longer there. So I set a different goal. I decided I'd work that job until I had saved three month's worth of living expenses and I would quit. While I was working toward that goal I would look for other employment that would benefit my career. I no longer dreaded going to work because I no longer felt trapped in a dead-end job.

The ninth step is to immerse yourself in a positive way with the source of your hate. Working together on a mutually beneficial goal builds trust and erodes the divisions we create between Us and Them. Find ways to create opportunities to know more positive qualities of the source of your hate. Create an environment free as possible of prejudice, bigotry, hatred, abuse, and violence. Not easy in our present contentious environment. But seek out positives about that which is hated. Balance the negative news with positive examples.

We are just now beginning to see stories on the news and on the internet about various faith communities working for the good of those of other faiths. We hear about police departments getting to know the citizens of their communities and neighborhoods by doing positive activities. We watch various segments of the community reaching out to other segments to solve mutual problems. When we create balance in what we experience we can be less and less likely to see others in stereotypical ways.

And finally, seek justice and not revenge. Now here's the hard part. Most people just want to "get even." The reality is, however, that seeking revenge puts you farther behind in the whole situation. Vengeful hatred anchors you in the past. Where hate dominates, grievances are never forgotten. The cycle of revenge and retaliation goes on and on, sometimes for centuries. No one wins!

Where do you start to break the cycle? Apologizing is a step in the right direction. It takes a big person to apologize. Many seem to find it impossible. In long-standing cycles of revenge and retaliation, individual leaders need to offer specific, heartfelt apologies as a beginning toward reconciling and developing mutual empathy. Recently Pope Francis apologized to victims of sexual abuse by clerics and is cooperating in bringing religious leaders to court. The only path to peace in the Middle East is through reconciliation. Both sides must come together, acknowledge the specific wrongdoings and mistakes to the other, and negotiate compromises to reconcile their differences.

But the apology must be perceived as sincere, which isn't easy in a suspicious and cynical atmosphere. Forgiveness does not come easily. However, there is no peace without moving on to justice through forgiveness. The conviction in the courts of those guilty of crime helps bring a fresh start to healing of warring or disputing factions.However, lingering prejudice and hated make these kinds of problems intractable. Moving through the steps of this strategy to curb hate with constant focus on the common humanity and unique individuality of adversaries and a sincere attempt to understand their positons and feelings, is far more likely to lead to genuine solutions. Protest signs that say "No Justice, No Peace" are right. But the justice must come through forgiveness and empathy on both sides.

Peace comes at a price. We often think the price is war. But that isn't so. The price is giving up hatred and working for common goals. War has yet to result in true peace with justice.

So, what do you think? Can we reduce hate? Is peace possible? Tell me about it.

What examples of hate have you seen recently? What was the harm?

What do you find hardest to forgive? What apology would you most want to hear?

Tell me about it!

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