It feels like hate is ripping through our country’s culture these days. Every person I know, in every walk of life, seems to be mad. They have some deep anger toward somebody, some organization, some group, or some uncontrollable circumstance. We lash out at anything to take out our frustrations. We all seem to be looking for someone or something to blame for the sadness and sorrow we feel navigating the challenging and ever-changing world we live in today. Some of us blame politicians, some blame schools or teachers, and some blame our neighbors or friends. We all seem to have pent-up frustration and anger bubbling just under the surface. Everyone has a great argument for why they’re mad at somebody or something. But the truth is, we all have the same root reason for our hate- frustration over the current situation. And let’s face it, the current situation these days feels completely, totally, and absolutely out of our control. We have misplaced anger. We feel stuck and we feel like we have no choices. We feel like we have zero control and that feels hopeless. I have had to reflect a lot about this because I don’t want to hold on to the anger and frustration any longer. It’s exhausting and it’s not how we were meant to live our lives.
2020 and 2021 have been upsetting in many ways—a global pandemic, social injustice, financial crisis, violence, contentious elections, schools online, heck… there were even murder hornets. That’s what’s going on outside in the world we live in every day. But inside, there are additional upsetting internal factors unique to each of us that rob us of our joy. We are living in a reactive culture right now. No one has gone through what we’re going through. There is so much unknown. Often that unknown quickly leads to fear. This fear leads to anger. For example, I’m afraid of getting COVID, therefore I hate it when someone wears a mask below their nose. Or, from a different perspective, I am afraid of my human rights being taken away, so I am angry about being told to wear a mask. Maybe I’m afraid my children will fall behind in school because they are learning virtually at home, so I become angry at the school for being closed to in-person instruction. Or I fear I will lose my job, so I am mad at the government for closing down. It’s a cycle repeated over and over- fear leading to anger. Now that we are months into the new year, it’s time to peel back our internal onion and understand the hate we feel is really fear and insecurity. Where is all this misplaced anger really getting us? Nowhere. It’s time to release the hate. It’s time to choose joy.
Joy is often misunderstood. As we grow and gain wisdom in life, we come to see that joy is not obtained by somehow removing all pain from our lives. Pain is a part of life. That would be the same as thinking that courageous people have no fear. But, as Nelson Mandela said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Similarly, joy can conquer the fear and anger we have in our lives. Learning how to endure the pain and still experience the joy is how to tame fear and anger, and not let it control us. Don’t believe that the joy you are looking for is only achievable by finding perfect circumstances. Joy is experienced as you rise above the hardship and pain through the power and presence within yourself. It takes practice.
The first step is to let go. We know fear leads to anger. So, start by making a list of everything you are afraid of. Then let it go. Maybe you need to let go of the fear of not living up to how you thought your life was supposed to be. Maybe you have a fear of possibly losing your job. Maybe you need to let go of the insecurities you have with your children not being in actual school. Let go of trying to predict what tomorrow may hold. Let go of control. Try to practice living within the moment and taking it one day at a time. Some days you may need to take it one hour at a time, or even one moment at a time. That can be extremely hard for those of us that like to plan, achieve, and be in control of knowing what’s next. But if you can master this, it can change your trajectory and help you overcome the hopelessness that we feel these days.
Here’s the thing- you want change, right? Sure, we all do, but we feel stuck. We’re all stuck in this hate bubble. What we need to do is pull ourselves up and change one thing, once a day. But what can we do to stop the hate and start living free from it? Here are a few suggestions to release the hate and find your joy:
- Choose a gratitude mindset. Take time, every day, to think about what you are thankful for in your life. Studies have shown that taking time to focus on what you appreciate in your life actually changes your brain chemistry and makes it more difficult to stay angry. So, invest a couple of moments on reflecting on what you are thankful for in your life – your attitude will thank you!
- Choose to listen to others- even if you disagree. Don’t interrupt. Don’t use the time you hear someone talking to think of your counter-response. Really actively listen. Listen without judging. Listen while really trying to put yourself in their position. Then control how you respond. Pause and breathe before you talk. Don’t impose your solutions or comments on them. Choose to forgive if you are offended by another’s response. Listening shows true respect and empathy for your fellow human- something we can all agree makes the world a better place.
- Take a social media sabbatical! Live in the real world and give your brain a mental health break from the waterfall of unrealistic images, unhealthy comparisons, charged commentary, negative news, and divisive dialogue. More importantly- get off before you post remarks that you’ll regret or read something that will steal your joy. Who leaves social media feeling great about life? No one. So why do it?
- Practice reflection. Journal more or make a list of the good things in your life. Reflection can put you in a better headspace. Reflection gives our brain the opportunity to pause and breath amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. Consider learning mindfulness or meditation to clear your head so you can feel refreshed and calm.
- Just love. Stop judging and just love. Let it go! We all have the same basic needs and we all want to be loved and understood. Yes, this is hard, but you can choose to forgive because forgiveness is YOU letting go not them. Forgiveness is about goodness, about extending mercy to those who’ve harmed us, even if they don’t deserve your forgiveness.
Anger and hate can take all of our energy, leaving nothing left for our spouse, our kids, our friends, and ourselves. Consciously work toward choosing joy every day and you will begin to have more energy, breath better, sleep better, and have more happiness in your life. Let go of the anger. Let the hate dissipate to allow the joy to preside. Before you know it, your joy will conquer the fear and anger in your life, giving you a life with less hate and more love.
“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.