When Love is Seen as Hate

In the last many months we’ve heard the word “hate” used liberally, often to describe someone who happens to disagree with a position taken on polarizing issue.

We want simple answers to complex problems.

I’m all about the digital, but this is a case where trying to think in binary is seriously off the mark.

It frustrates me that there’s no middle ground any more – at least not in any way that seems to be allowed in polite conversation.

I’ll use sexual orientation as the example, but this thinking applies to many of the popularly controversial issues of our time including immigration, politics, religion, and much more.

Assume, for a moment, that you were brought up conservatively. Nothing extreme, just beliefs that fit a Christian conservative stereotype.

Now assume one of your friends comes out as gay. You believe that this is wrong. You believe that it goes against God’s word and will, and that your friend will suffer damnation for what you believe is a lifestyle choice.

You are concerned for your friend. Deeply concerned, in fact. Your belief in his or her eternal damnation as a result of this choice affects you deeply. You care for this friend, and you don’t want to see this happen. You believe it’s not just your duty to save your friend from eternal damnation, but more so, because they are your friend, because you care for them, because you love them, you believe you must do everything in your power to save them from this horrible, horrible fate.

Now, let’s be clear: it doesn’t matter whether or not being gay is a choice. It doesn’t matter whether God’s word says one thing or the other.

It doesn’t even matter whether God exists.

What matters is what you believe. And you truly believe two things:

  • Your friend’s lifestyle is a choice that will cause them eternal suffering.
  • Your concern for your friend compels you to attempt to “save” them.

Here’s the problem: your love stands a very good chance of being labeled hate.

Binary. Yes or no. You’re with me or against me.

Anything short of complete acceptance is labelled hate.

Life just isn’t that simple. And people suffer because of it. Not in some afterlife, but in the here and now.

  • Your friend will assume you reject and hate what they are. Your friend will suffer.
  • You will assume your friend rejects (and perhaps hates) you and the actions you believe to be in your friends best interests. You will suffer.

An all or nothing mentality simply leads to suffering.

I see this play out again and again across a wide variety of topics.

And, to be completely honest, I only see it getting worse in the future. Our climate is changing to one of greater intolerance. What is intolerance but binary thinking? “If you’re don’t agree with me, you’re against me.” Or worse: “If I don’t agree with you, I’m against you.”

The solution?

The solution is knowing that you can disagree with someone and still love them. Perhaps more importantly, the solution is realizing that someone can disagree with you and still love you.

It requires work. Work that we’re less and less willing to take on. Not only because its work, but because it requires understanding … an understanding that feels scary because it threatens what we believe and who we are.

It requires digging deeper than disagreement. It requires looking past what you might label as hate.

It requires understanding that there is more to each of us than the things we might disagree on.

Hate, on its own, is bad enough. Love misinterpreted as hate is doubly sad.

While I’m certain that there’s true hate out there, I’m convinced that much of what we see and label as hate is just misunderstood love.

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