THERE was a literary man that I used to walk along the street with. He had a large number of acquaintances. Often, apparently for no reason, he would become excited and he would frown and turn his head away. For a few moments there would be silence. Then he would speak with bitterness of someone we had just passed, someone he hated and refused to speak to. In every instance he would tell me something discreditable about the person, something that made it impossible for him to keep his peace of mind. In most of those instances he had known the people very well and, as a result of their misbehavior, he had cast them off. The sight of them seemed to arouse in him a flood of bitter memories. Sometimes he would tell me how much he hated this person or that. Once I ventured to say to him: "Don't you find it very uncomfortable to hate so many people?" He looked at me with surprise and resentment. "Of course I don't," he said. Then he went on with noble indignation: "Do you suppose that I am going to have anything to do with people I despise? There are plenty of decent people in the world and I prefer to know them." I did not pursue the inquiry. But I wondered why he did not stop to consider the distressing effect of his hating on himself.
Hating is always distressing. And yet so many of us hate bitterly. We often boast of being good haters. It is as if we were to boast of being good dipsomaniacs, or good drug fiends, or good disturbers of our own peace. Indeed, hating is so painful that it may reach a point where even the haters see its folly and, for the sake of protecting themselves, take measures either to modify or to stop their hating. "I got into such a state of mind over that thing," said a friend to me the other day, after telling of an unpleasant complication that he had been involved in with a business partner, "that I found I was making myself sick. I was ready to do my partner personal violence. So I decided to put the whole thing out of my mind. It was easier to let myself be done up in that particular transaction than to go on nursing that miserable feeling. Besides, I saw that my partner was feeling just about as bitter as I felt myself." Here, it seemed to me, was a particularly interesting situation. "How did your partner feel after you called the thing off?" My friend smiled. "Well, though he'd refused to budge an inch before, he came off his perch and offered to make a compromise. So the whole thing straightened itself out."
Shortly after I published a little fictional study designed to show the workings of hate on the mind and on the body, a reader said to me: "I have a case of hate of my own that I'd like to see what you think of." Then he told me of a gross injustice he had been subjected to, a distressing experience that had broken out into many irritations and trials and that promised to continue the torment. "Do you wonder that I hate that man?" he asked, referring to the cause of the trouble. I certainly didn't wonder. Under such circumstances, hating seemed to me the most natural reaction in the world. "I've got so now that I enjoy hating him," he went on. "The more I hate him the more I enjoy hating him." As he spoke the expression in his face was painful to see. It was as if he were taking a strange, distressful pleasure in prodding at an aching tooth or at sore gums. What he really enjoyed was giving himself relief from his hating by consciously expressing it in his thoughts and in his words. "But, of course, I know," he said, "that hating doesn't do any good to me. It does me harm. It makes me suffer. So I have to stand two things through that fellow--the thing that he did to me and the hating." It seemed to me that he was working his case out pretty well. "Of the two things, which is worse?" I asked. Without a moment's hesitation, he replied. "Oh, the hating." And yet it was the hating that he could deal with, the he could, if he chose, end.
The moment we begin hating we start a train of mischief. Instantly the person we hate becomes a painful object, not to the physical eye alone, but to the eye of consciousnes which can see objects far away or not present at all. The good haters carry about with them many such objects. They fill their house of life with hideous furniture. Life itself they make ugly. And the ugliness they reflect in their feeling, often in their looks. The good haters easily assume hateful expressions. And hateful expressions sometimes become fixed in the face. Indeed, all the beauty doctors in the world cannot hide such betrayals. Furthermore, hating quickly shows itself to the object hated. If the object hated is human it is likely to return hate for hate. Now the war is on. There is no knowing how far it will go, with its reprisals. Invariably hating brings out the worst aspects in the hater and in the hated.
Hating is wasteful and absurd. But there are people we can't get along with, hateful people, perhaps people that hate us for no reason in the world or people that annoy us or draw us into quarreling. Isn't it better for us to keep out of the way? Often we find people taking this line of thought. As a rule it is self-deceptive. Surely it is better for us to keep out of the way of those we can't get along with. But when we meet them there is only one thing for us to do, to treat them courteously, to be careful not to let them see that we are suspicious of them or in any way unfriendly. We must actually take toward them a kindly attitude. We must realize that their faults belong to the huge family of faults from which we ourselves make a generous draft.
In all our hating there is a vast amount of egotism. If we could forget ourselves we should instantly forget our hating. We know of people who have done others injustice and who are consequently hated by those people. But we don't necessarily hate them or feel any resentment. It is only when the injury becomes our injury that we subject ourselves to torment. For this reason alone we ought to see what a small personal thing hate is and what an unwise indulgence. Nearly everyone has some special hate. So nearly everyone has some special task to meet in life, to overcome this foe that lives in the consciousness. To reach victory here may mean a marvelous increase in happiness. Surely then it is worth struggling for. And when the victory is won there is just one thing for each of us to do, to part company with hate for the rest of our lives.
"Hating" is reprinted from Reactions and Other Essays Discussing Those States of Feeling and Attitude of Mind That Find Expression In Our Individual Qualities. John Daniel Barry. San Francisco: John J. Newbegin, 1915.