My wife had this thing when our sons were little, and she saw to it as best as she could that it lingered as they became teenagers. Inside the safe confines of our house, she told them, there was no filter. It was a safe place, so to speak, where things could be said that would be heard by only the four members of our family, and the walls of our house would keep the secret and would not betray our confidence and our trust.
If either one of our sons was mad about someone or something, they could feel free to vent. They could say what they truly felt even if, as parents, it would make us cringe and instinctively tempt us to jump in and proclaim that they didn't really mean what they were saying – it’s very possible that they didn’t – or simply that they shouldn't be saying what they were saying, period. Of course, as any parent can probably guess, my wife and I would take full advantage of our household-sized-no-holds-barred zone as well, too many times to count.
But we still had some rules when the boys were furious. Like, we didn't want them to say "shut up." They couldn't yell those two words in the heat of the moment, and they couldn't even utter them casually when their sibling had somehow gotten under their skin for whatever seemingly minuscule reason. Say "be quiet" instead, we suggested.
We also didn't allow them to say "hate." If they were particularly upset with a fellow student, a friend, a teacher or a coach and let it fly that they hated that person, we'd jump in and say no, they didn't hate the person, they were just especially frustrated, and they despised the person or strongly disliked the person with extreme enthusiasm. But they didn't actually hate them, we’d proclaim.
But that doesn't mean it's bad to hate. It's not evil. It's certainly not against the law. You can hate all you want, you just can't turn your spiteful, dark feelings into action and engage in behaviors against the object of your hate that harm that person. Sure, hating certain people might slowly turn your insides into an abyss of awfulness and reduce you to a twisted knot of repressed rage and contribute to you dying younger than maybe a more content and accepting person would, but it doesn't mean you can't hate if you're hell-bent on hating.
But, in our house, I recently crossed the boundaries of our informal, unofficial rule.
"Do you hate Trump?" one of our sons asked me, as I sat in the recliner and watched on the news whatever regretful and/or astoundingly inappropriate thing President Donald Trump had said or done on that particular day, or whatever his latest batch of lies consisted of.
“Son,” I began, “about that no-hate thing your mom and I put in place when you were little...”
I'm not proud of how I feel, of course, but I can live with myself. I'm human, I'm capable of hate, and if my kid asks me point blank, I'm not going to lie.
A person more sympathetic to Trump’s shortcomings recently suggested that maybe it would be healthier and more productive of me to feel less hate for the president, and instead simply feel sorry for him. Another Trump supporter who realizes he is a very flawed individual suggested I pray for him. Nope. Can’t go there. Not even close, on both friendly suggestions.
But hate can be confounding. We can look up the dictionary definitions of words like “hate” and “despise” and other supposed similes and try our best to compare and contrast them, but do we really know what it means to hate? Is there a boilerplate definition, a common feeling that comes over us as humans when we reach the point where we think we hate someone? Or is this a purely individual thing, where one person’s hate threshold in another person barely surpasses a level of general dislike?
If we’re honest with ourselves, many of us would admit we’ve felt hate before, and maybe we feel it now. Maybe you share my feelings about our president, or maybe you hate me because of what I write about him and others that you agree with and hold in high regard. Maybe you have hated and continue to hate Hillary Clinton...you know, over Benghazi and those emails. I’m not a big fan of her, either, but, come on, this toddler-like collection of cells is the President of the United States?
I could list all of the reasons why I feel this way about Trump, but it would just make my temples start pounding, and, plus, if you like Trump and you agree with what he and Republican leaders in Congress are doing, nothing I write will sway your mind, and nothing he or them says or does will change your opinion, either.
So here’s to hate. It’s no fun to feel, but, I can live with it, and myself.