The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy

There are some people who believe that the opposite of love is hate. I used to believe this, too. I used to believe that thinking about someone, hating them, and wishing they would change somehow, is just desserts for being somehow, awful. My anger then, was an inability to accept the other person as they truly are. My hate was an obsession, and obsession is just another fancy term for addiction. Hate is an addiction.

I have had people tell me to my face that they hate me. I know what that feels like, but looking back, I now see that I once lacked the skills to tolerate the idea that someone hated me. As an older, more mature adult, I now know that in their hatred, those other people wanted me to change somehow. Which meant that in some small part, they found something to like about me just enough, to want me to change.

There is something else about hate that says it is not the opposite of love: if you’re still thinking about me, you probably love me, too. In other words, if I hate someone, I’m still thinking about them, wishing they would be like I want them to be.

The difference between hate and love then, is that in love, I do everything in my power to allow you to grow to the greatest extent, while doing no harm. I teach and demonstrate for you the skills I think you need to be a better person. I teach you the skills I think you need to live and to grow, and hopefully, to prosper. I say, “follow me”.

Hate says that I dislike you, but that I lack the capacity to accept you as you are and teach you those skills that I think you would need to know, to be accepted by me. Hate says I just want you to change, so that I may be happy, with you.

Resentment says, I will drink the poison, but I want you to die first. Hate is not that far removed from resentment. They are both obsessions. They both require actively thinking of another person, wishing they would somehow change for the better, and there is nary a thought of teaching the target of the obsession, the skills needed to make whatever improvement will resolve the resentment or the hate.

Hate therefore, is counter-productive. When I hate someone, I allow that person to occupy my mind, to displace the mental capacity that could otherwise be used for the betterment of myself and mankind. If I spend minutes or even hours hating someone or something, and those minutes or hours could stretch to months or years, then I lose that same amount capacity to make myself happy. I lose that capacity to hate when it could be used to bring some joy to someone else.

This is why I am careful to say that I don’t hate anyone, and I really don’t hate anyone, for I have better uses for my time and energy. Not Trump, not my Congress-critter, not that irritating person or customer at work. In fact, because I have chosen not to hate anyone, I actually work better with irritating people than otherwise. Note that I can choose whether to hate or not. I just see difficult people as a challenge rather than someone I have to change. I don’t have to take as personal, anything they say or do. Not my circus, not my monkeys. If I choose not to hate anyone, or anything, then I free up enormous amounts of mental capacity to improve myself, my brothers and sisters, and the world.

While I may not hate anyone, I am free to disagree with another person or thing. I disagree with red meat, so I avoid eating it. I disagree with fast food, so I avoid eating it. I don’t hate them, I just disagree with them.

I disagree with my neoliberal Congress-Critters. I disagree with Trump and Mike Pence, but I don’t hate them. I disagree with a great many things, but I don’t let them occupy my mind to the extent that I am unable to care for and improve myself. This is the difference between hate and disagreement. With hate, I am with you, if not in body, then in spirit, 24/7. I am addicted. With disagreement, I may dislike that thing or person, but I am not addicted to them.

Apathy is new territory for some. It was for me, once. For then, I didn’t even know what apathy was, even though I may have experienced apathy many times myself. Apathy says, “I don’t care what you do. Go do it. I don’t care if I see you or speak to you again. Evah. I won’t bother calling. I’ll be busy doing something else, but I know for sure that I won’t be thinking about you.”

With apathy, there is zero occupation of the mind about the other. The other might as well be dead. Apathy does not care either way, anyway. Apathy says that I choose not to let you occupy my mind in any way. I’m done.

I am very careful about letting myself become apathetic about the people I love, and I make a conscious choice to avoid that path. This is not even about burning bridges, well, it is in a way. If I’m going to burn a bridge, then apathy is by far the most effective way to do it. There is no caring, no point of return, no further discussion. And when the other person is apathetic about me, then it is truly time to move on. Apathy, if anything, is not only the opposite of love it is the true adversary of love.

So I take pains and great care with my words and my actions. I let the feelings pass as well as I can before acting on some thought or emotion. There are people in my life now whom I dearly love and want to keep in my life. If they say that they hate me, well, then I know there is still a chance we can work it out. If they stop talking to me and stop expressing any feelings towards me, then I know the end is near. If I see them again, in apathy with me, I will see them in passing, as someone I used to know.

I make a conscious decision to love the people in my life, every day. I tell them that I love them just the way they are. I do this because if I want them to change, then I didn’t really love them anyway. I do this because they may not have the capacity, the skills or even the desire to be exactly the way I want them to be. Love is accepting other people as they are, completely, and without reservation.

I say to them, “I love you just the way you are. You don’t have to change for me. Change is automatic.” You might not even change the way I want you to change, but you will change. I am committed to my relationships because I know this.

I don’t worry about how people will change. I just focus on my commitments to the people I love and that’s it. I focus on making myself a better person rather than giving in to hate. I focus on being the change I want to see, and let them be. I act this way not because this is how the world is, I do this because this is how I want the world to be.

For us, there is only the trying, the rest is not our business. — TS Eliot

Write on.

Originally published on, October 11th, 2017. Updated for clarity and a few new thoughts that come with yet another pass.

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