Love is Stronger than Hate
“With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”
After my divorce, I had numerous arguments with my former spouse regarding how to best honor visitation schedules with our children. These were heated and emotional disputes because it involved dividing up time with young children. At one point, I remember feeling myself leaning toward hate. It was as though my toes were pressed against an imaginary line and if I crossed that line, I would enter the realm of hatred. It was such a horrible feeling; and yet, it took an enormous amount of effort just to stay on my side of the line! I have never forgotten that feeling of being so close to the edge.
That pull toward hate may seem justified when we feel wronged, when we are operating from our ego, or when others hurt those we love. Nevertheless, hateful and vengeful responses do not solve our individual or collective problems. Emotions such as frustration, anger, and fear are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. But crossing over into the terrain of hatred or revenge hurts not only our well being; it also contributes to the suffering on our planet. What matters is how we react when intense emotions start churning within like destructive tornadoes.
Unhealthy ways of handling our anger include lashing out verbally and/or physically. Name-calling, mocking, scorning, bullying, and ridicule are also inappropriate anger responses. Most of us have probably noticed examples of this type of behavior in the news and on Facebook posts. Watching how these exchanges tend to spiral out of control, we can also see how critical it is for us to learn how to channel strong emotions in a more constructive manner.
While navigating turbulent emotions isn’t easy, there are healthy coping skills we can master. The next time you feel triggered, try one (or a combination) of the following:
- Breathe. Breathe. Three SLOW deep breaths in. Three SLOW deep breaths out.
- Sit in meditation or prayer. During quiet reflective time, feel how the emotions manifest in your body. Allow them to work their way through you by simply being aware of them. Before reacting, give your emotions time and space to settle. Practice self-care. It’s okay to cry, listen to soothing music, or read an inspirational message that affirms loving kindness or a higher good.
- Go for a walk or to the gym. Dance with abandon. Practice yoga or other restorative body movements. Physical activity is an excellent way to release pent up energy. A massage is another wonderful tool to relax your mind and body.
- Talk to a supportive friend or loved one. Find someone who can listen calmly and compassionately (not just someone who will take your side).
- Pour your frustrations, anger, and hurt into paintings, photography, music, writing, or songs. Creative expression allows us to express a full range of emotions, while also transforming them—perhaps revealing glimpses of hope, determination, joy, and courage.
Notice what happens to your body when you are angry. Often, our heart feels like a clenched fist. It is tight. Uncomfortable. Ready to do battle. Anger can be both stressful and energy consuming. It leaves us feeling drained.
When calm, our heart feels open. More expansive. We feel better when we act from motives of self-care and care of others. Our attitude is more optimistic, and we feel energized. Even if we strongly disagree with someone, words and actions that come from a loving space are more likely to contribute to a solution. Setting healthy boundaries is also a response in self-love.
With a still, peaceful presence, we can ask: What do I need? What can I control? Where do I need to stand firm? What can I release? What is best for all concerned?
Our heart will let us know what is being asked of us. Maybe at its source our anger is actually fear: fear that our loved ones are at risk, fear that we are not enough, fear that we are powerless, or fear that we cannot solve our current problems. Fear wears many masks. Mindfulness practices may also reveal the deep love or sadness hidden beneath our anger.
It may help to ask ourselves: How do we want to be in the world? What behavior do we want to model for our children?
We will always have lots of opportunities to practice—with family members, with co-workers, with neighbors, and with our global community. Ultimately, we must learn to work together, to practice compassion, and to nurture what we truly love.
Only then, can we be the positive change that our world so desperately needs.
In joy & gratitude,
Diana J. Ensign
Navigating through Turbulent Times
Sunday, August 28, 2016, 10:30 am
Heartland Unitarian Universalist Church
9870 North Michigan Road, Suite B
Carmel, IN 46032
(Located at the back of the parking lot, behind the Enterprise Car Rental)
Join Diana for this thoughtful presentation on turbulent change as a catalyst for personal and collective growth.