Restoring Venom in Our Hatred

           I hate the word “hate.” But not in the way you might hate your econ class or the way you hate the post-2A lines at KAF. No, I hate it in the Biblical sense. I hate it for real. I hate it, truly hate it, because of what it's come to mean and how far that definition skews from my own.

            Growing up, “hate” was just another four-letter word I wasn't allowed to say. "Hate is a strong word," my Sunday School teacher mother would caution. She told me I wasn't capable of actually hating anyone and that doing so is no casual matter. Instead, I attributed hatred to Mojo Jojo, the evil genius chimpanzee mad scientist on The Powerpuff Girls, thinking it out of my capacity.

            But then middle school happened, and the word took on a hole slew of new applications. To the study buddy who was five minutes late: “I hate you.” To the best friend who got an A on the impossible science test: “I hate you.” To the kid who made a snide joke about his sister's singing voice: “I hate you.”

            And the venom was gone. The word had become filler, nothing more than a comeback. At least to them.

            But here's the problem: The word may have lost its venom to others, but not to me. To me, it will always be a “strong word,” a phrase not even fitting to be spoken to my own worst enemies. So when you say you hate me, “lol jk love you!!!”, I'm taken aback, even though I understand you didn't mean it, not by my definition at least.

            Overuse of the word has denigrated us to a culture of negativity, a culture where a first reaction to a friend's good hair day is not kind compliments but an “I hate you” that slips all too easily, all too thoughtlessly from the tongue.

            Acknowledging and accepting that we're capable of hatred through our speech has profound implications. Think of the people in history who are famous for their hatred and the destruction in their wakes. Think of Stalin, think of bin Laden. Think of Mojo Jojo. If we can't distinguish ourselves as better than this, as better than hatred, imagine what we're capable of.

            I have, and I hate it.

            So I'm glad the word stings me. In fact, I would argue the importance of others having the same reaction. “Hate” must mean something extreme — something beyond our capacity — so we can remind ourselves that we're (mostly) good people, that since hate is beyond us we must act in kindness. And often, it is what we don't say that makes the biggest difference. Refraining from using the word “hate” is a start, especially if we can fill the empty space where this curse used to be with positive words, with kindness, with love.