Two simple words. Love. Hate. These words identify the two most powerful emotions of the human experience. Despite the sheer weight that these two words carry, they are tossed about thoughtlessly, frivolously, day in and day out. I'm guilty of it myself. "I love that movie!" "I hate the cold!"
Rather than using them to label the potent feelings they are intended to describe, we often use these two words as a measure of comfort level. If something makes us feel comfortable, we love it. If it makes us feel uncomfortable, we hate it. This goes beyond far beyond physical levels of comfort. Especially with 'hate', which we also often use against things we don't fully understand.
Despite the carelessness with which we throw these words around, their power remains intact. This is never more clear than when the word 'hate' is used against groups of people. Every day, I hear someone claim their hatred toward one group of people or another. Some hate teachers. Some hate politicians. Lawyers. Doctors. Those groups are hated for choices they've made in their careers or behaviors, and for the stereotypes about those choices. Other groups, however, are hated for characteristics that they had no choice over. There are people who hate women. Homosexuals. People of color. There are those who hate people for their beliefs. Jews. Muslims. Christians.
It seems like it's almost too simple to dismiss groups of people who make us uncomfortable, or who we don't understand, but it's not simple at all. If I've learned one thing about 'hate' in my 30+ years on this planet, it's that it takes a lot of energy, and it sure as hell isn't positive energy. If there's one thing I've learned about love, it's that every single person is worthy of it. No matter their beliefs, their thoughts, their behaviors, their appearance, or the various characteristics with which they were born, every person deserves to be loved.
Two of the core values that I strive to live and model are those of compassion toward all living things and embracing diversity in all of its forms. The career I've chosen has provided me with endless opportunities to develop those qualities within myself. Even in individuals who have committed the most heinous crimes, there is something to love.
I have a choice. I can put my focus on hating their crime or hating them for committing it. Because I don't understand it. Because it makes me uncomfortable. Or I can put forth the effort required to search within them for the human being deserving of my love and compassion. If I am capable of finding love and compassion for even violent offenders, surely I can look past my differences with those who think, believe, behave, look, or love differently than I do to see the human being inside of them deserving of my love and compassion.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:
I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
I choose love. Love beats hate. Every time.