Throughout high school I had a hatred for anyone who made fun of my friends. I was (and to an extent, still am) very protective of them. Plus I knew what it felt like to be ridiculed for doing nothing other than just being yourself.
However, irony is at play here. They judged me and my social misfit friends, but wasn’t I doing the exact same thing to them? Wasn’t I judging their behaviour towards us? I resented their lack of acceptance, but clearly I wasn’t very accepting either.
You have a reason for being different. Didn’t they have a reason for being antagonistic?
But everything would come full circle on the night of our graduation. The valedictorian gave his speech and in it, he referenced a super-embarrassing thing that happened to one of my friends that caused all of us to scream in delirious laughter, including myself.
I’ve replayed that night in my mind probably at least once every two weeks since 2005. I cringe every time. I sat behind him that night and remember seeing him swallowed in ridicule and rejection. I took grad pictures with him afterwards feeling like such a hypocrite.
And that’s just one tale in a list of a number of times where I condemned something and then became it. Maybe you have your own cringe-inducing moments where you caught yourself in the same act you declared you hated.
What can we do to avoid it?
I think the first thing to bear in mind is that this is not uncommon. Everyone becomes what they hate sooner or later. Of course, they might not become everything they hate, but they become the things that they focus on the most.
Actress and director Asia Argento, who was (is?) a leader of the #MeToo movement and called out Harvey Weinstein for sexually assaulting her in the 1990s, was also revealed to have molested a teen actor in 2013 and paid him to be quiet about it.
U.S. government officials often proclaim their condemnation of other nations who engage in crimes against other nations, whether it be invasions or bombings. And yet, they are also guilty of bombing nations and even funding it. One need not look any further than Saudi Arabia’s onslaught on Yemen.
Bill O’Reilly had been criticizing absentee fathers for years on his now-cancelled show. And yet, that very same criticism has been levied at him.
One disadvantage with these examples is that we can’t know if Argento or the U.S. government officials or Bill O’Reilly actually believed in the things they said they valued. One would hope so, but it is difficult when faced with such stark contrasts.
You could even say the same for me. How would you know that I was truly against bullying? Clearly I was against it when it happened to me and my friends, but I still laughed at my friend.
This leads me to the second point in how to avoid it: you might not be able to and you’ve probably already stepped in it.
Sorry, but you’re probably not as great as you think you are. You, me and everybody else on this planet are hypocrites to some degree. The people who provided the information that I linked to above — they’re hypocrites too. They believed in something and then failed.
The nice guy who fails to get the girl becomes his sworn enemy, the douchebag; the religious person who talks about the love of their god who then vilifies someone who doesn’t believe in their faith. These are just two examples of a worldwide phenomenon.
Thirdly, after we’ve acknowledged that several people become what they hate, and that we have already been guilty of it (consciously or unconsciously), we must simply be honest.
I laughed at my friend because in truth, while it was embarrassing, it was a funny thing that had happened to him. He and I even laughed about it the other day.
Argento did what she did for the same reason Weinstein did it — an unhealthy expression of attraction. While neither of them can be excused for what they did, I think that the public vitriol would die down if everyone’s dirty laundry was aired out as sexual assaults are under-reported to police. I have male and female friends who have been in situations where someone else was sexually inappropriate, with varying degrees of intensity.
Politicians who sign off or turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s crimes against Yemen are doing what we’ve all done, which is to look out for our friends. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, this is not right. I’m only pointing out that we’re all guilty of looking out for our friends, but not to the same scale as these politicians.
Even in the O’Reilly case, I’ve written about my childhood desire to be closer to my father and that even though he was around, it felt that he wasn’t. I vowed that I would never do that to my kids. But as I got older and I thought about being a father, I could see the same selfish tendencies bubbling to the surface. I was lucky to catch them, examine them and then set them free.
Psychologist Peter Bregman wrote,
“In different circumstances… who’s to say what choices we might make? Any one of us is capable of just about anything. And unless we acknowledge that, we are at greater risk of becoming the person we fear the most. We’re more likely to lash out against others to defend our view of ourselves.”
This is the point that virtually everyone believes about themselves: You think you’re incapable of being a villain. You think you are largely a good person and that your actions are always justified. My advice to you is to stop such a delusion. Pop psychology loves to tell us that we don’t know our potential for greatness. Jungian shadow work reveals the darkness we didn’t know we had. Both are correct.
This lands us at our final point and conclusion. If you are capable of becoming what you hate, have already been guilty of doing so and have observed people becoming what they hate as they defend themselves like clowns because they don’t want to fess up to the truth that they are capable of evil, like the rest of us, the only logical conclusion is: stop hating.