Merriam Webster defines hate as, “a deep and emotional extreme dislike for someone or something”. You might find it strange that a person who tends to write about kindness and joy and love would start a piece with hate’s definition, but today I was watching something, a story on the program Sunday Morning that I’d recorded, and it reminded me why I think kindness and joy and love are so important. They are the opposite of hating and divisiveness.
The story I was watching was pretty benign, about a photographer who takes photos of lookalikes. You’ve probably seen it going around Facebook, stories about this photographer and his project. Today the story itself wasn’t the thing, what struck me most was the part about how the country of Colombia had commissioned this photographer’s work as part of an exhibit putting forward the idea of sameness and likeness, instead of difference. The message they wanted most to convey was that we are more alike than we are dissimilar. It’s an idea close to my heart. This idea of sameness and likeness.
We tend to be afraid, apprehensive, and suspicious, of things and people unfamiliar to us. It’s a natural reaction, or seems to be anyway, for us to pull back, be cautious, to see what’s different about a person instead of what might be the same. It’s natural, yes, but it also creates barriers, divisions, and sometimes conflict. Before really getting to know a person or a place we often begin to think the differences make them better than, or worse than, ourselves. We categorize. We judge. We assume. And sometimes, we hate.
I’ve felt this judgment in myself, and it shames me. Yes, it’s natural, to be cautious of difference, but it can also be a band-aid for our wounded hearts and souls. Our feelings of superiority over some people allow us to feel better about ourselves, helping us to feel so much smarter or aware, and ultimately, somehow, so much better than “those” people. Our feelings of inferiority allow us to justify our anger about our circumstance and our feeling that that circumstance is somehow the fault of “those” people, somehow their responsibility. I’m guilty of both. So are you.
Now that I have grandchildren I think about the future, I think about the people they will become. I want them to appreciate and celebrate the differences in people, in cultures, in themselves. I hope they will grow up to a world that’s matured. I hope they live among people who show kindness and live joyously. I hope they find people who strive for understanding and live with love. I hope they are those people.
It’s easy to get cynical when you watch the news and don’t agree with what you see, what you hear, but I still believe in the human heart, the human spirit. I believe, seriously, that most people can be kind. I believe most people prefer love over hate. I believe we are more alike than we are not. I believe most of us want the same things: to be loved, to love, to have a place we love to call home, to have friends and community, to not stress about money, to have good health and for our loved ones to have good health, to be safe, to be happy. We all want these things. So do our neighbors and the people we don’t agree with, and so do “those” people, whoever they are.
We are more alike than we are not. And love, if we let it, will always win over hate.