A dear friend has told me time and again that when I use the word ‘hate,’ she always feels slightly surprised. It hadn’t really occurred to me. I have never spoken to her about hating anybody, but I have, myriad times, commented on my likes and dislikes with it, such as hating a certain situation, i.e., “I hate it when this happens…” or “I hate mushrooms on salad,” and so forth. I know that it is a small example, seemingly insignificant, a way of speaking that as far as I had realized was socially acceptable and not harming anyone. But to my friend’s sensitivities, I was expressing rigidity, finality, and in the extreme, condemnation–and the object of my hatred didn’t matter, the point was that I was expressing the sentiment, if only verbally, of hate. That should give pause to anyone who is working to deepen their practice of nonviolence.
It didn’t take me long to understand the extent of what she meant, and I readily agreed with her. After all, having heard her utter an unexpected curse word from time to time sounded as jarring to my sensitivities as my use of “hate” did to her. So we agreed to work on ourselves to avoid using shorthand for a preference or a feeling, and instead, try our best to express more fully what we really mean about a given topic or situation. When it comes to violence and nonviolence, it’s worth being careful in even the smallest things (careful, but not compulsive). Violence in our words expresses the roots of violence in our thoughts, after all, and is in turn a step away from violence in actions. When we can transform our words, by becoming conscious of why we use them and the power of how we use them, we can interrupt a potential downward spiral and increase the effectiveness of our communication–because we are doing our best to communicate in full awareness what we really mean and how we really feel.
Do you ever use the word ‘hate’ in your daily life? Find a way of replacing it with something more succinct.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org