I want everyone to like me. But everyone liking me isn’t required to have a good life.
I want to like everyone. But let’s be real . . . some people are easier to like than others. I’m not sure liking everyone is possible.
So we tend to make peace with disliking certain people. We accept it as a normal part of life. But I’m wondering today . . . can dislike deteriorate into something worse? If I’m not careful, can it worm its way into my heart and grow into something much more negative than simple dislike? Can dislike actually become dangerous?
Here’s a major danger of ongoing dislike: When I don’t like somebody, I tend to see everything they say or do through the distorted lens of my dislike. The lens through which I view them can become foggy. Long-term dislike can turn into disdain, where nothing that person does seems good enough for me. I start qualifying even the good things they say or do with a “yeah, but . . .”
Looking through the lens of my dislike over the course of time can render me blind to the humanness of the person I dislike. Blind to their good qualities.
Dislike has the uncanny capacity to color everything. It can deteriorate into contempt. And when dislike descends to that level, it really is a shame. We find ourselves looking for what’s wrong in the other person instead of celebrating what’s right.
Unchecked and undealt-with dislike can ultimately morph into hatred. And hatred is dangerous. It’s cancerous. It metastasizes our negativity and crowds out any hope of understanding those we dislike. Hatred causes us to grow less gracious, poisons our hearts, and kills relationships. It divides families, churches, businesses, and even nations.
In the book of Genesis, we read about the destructive power of hatred in the lives of Joseph’s brothers: “When his brothers saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Apparently, hatred poisons the water hole of our heart so deeply that it renders us speechless in terms of anything kind to say. Hatred is an occupying force that puts us in a place where we find ourselves unable to think or speak rationally about the person in the way of our hatred. And the vitriol spewing from our mouth may feel good to us in the moment—but in the long run—everyone loses . . . the object of our hate loses, society loses, and—wait for it . . . we lose too! Nobody wins when hatred rules the day.
And hatred often starts innocently as dislike. Dislike can be hatred in seed form.
The question is, how do I know if my dislike for someone is becoming hatred? Here’s a few warning signs:
- When we use social media as a passive/aggressive weapon instead of a means to encourage and inspire . . . we might be coming close to hatred.
- When nothing the person we dislike does is enough or right in our eyes . . . we might be moving toward hatred.
- When I find myself obsessing over the person I dislike, hatred might be knocking on the door.
- When I caricature the person I dislike, hatred is not far away.
I’m not suggesting we give a pass to people who behave badly. But I think we’ve forgotten we can hate certain behaviors without hating the person behind those behaviors. As a matter of fact, I think that’s what Jesus-followers are supposed to do. Jesus told a woman caught in adultery, “I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Here’s my paraphrase: “Relationship with me is available to you despite your sin. But stop hurting yourself and others with your promiscuous behavior.” He displayed this amazing ability to separate people from their behavior.
Here are some things we should hate: Bloodshed; physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse; arrogance; gossip; lying; self-absorption; ongoing immaturity; prejudice; bullying; pedophilia; etc.
The problem is, we humans often fail to separate behaviors from the people who do those behaviors. Separating these two things requires us to think, to pause, to pray, to be slow to write people off. Ongoing dislike and ultimately hatred require none of that from us. Hatred is a lazy person’s default response to anyone they disagree with.
You might be thinking, “Interesting thoughts about dislike John, but why should I care? Why does it matter if I deal with (or don’t deal with) my dislike of others? Because dislike distorts. Dislike destroys. And dislike can end up dominating you. It can end up running . . . and ruining . . . your life.
Who do you dislike? Be honest . . . has your dislike rendered you unable to see their humanness? Has it caused you to view in a negative light everything they say or do? Has your dislike been inching toward hatred? Be careful my friend. Hatred will destroy you.
My prayer today for you, me, and our country is that we learn how to give more grace to each other and less criticism. More prayer for each other and fewer caustic comments. More civility and less hubris. More like, and less dislike.
Rooting and praying for you,