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Dealing With Hatred

Question:

Hi Brian, I’ve been tumbling this in my head. One of the strongest tenents in Buddhism I agree with is ending suffering, both for the self and others. It’s been a core part of my spiritual path as I’ve started transitioning from female-to-male. I’ve been lucky that many are supportive, even if they do not understand or necessarily agree with my decision. They do realize that the person inside this shell is still the same person in the old shell and this is something that I felt I had to do (it took me a good 3 years of debating whether transitioning was my path or not). But I have started to face more and more discrimination and hate (a lot less than many transwomen face like Angie Zapata).

I totally respect those that feel this isn’t their path but often have a hard time coming to terms with the violence and hate that is thrown at myself and others who find this as their only salvation from suffering (certainly one could have a debate that the body is nothing more than property and an attachment but it does, IMO, go deeper than that).

I try to view in my head that perhaps some experience in their past has them being angry and hateful towards others they do not understand, respect or otherwise. But there are times when I cannot come to terms as to how much pain they emit. How does one come to terms with this and help the other person relieve their own suffering from hate and anger? I know I cannot force them to realize that this is a personal path that has no direct effect on their life but often their hate has a direct effect on mine. Some might say that not transitioning would stop their pain (this is not family, friends or colleagues but rather strangers and society at large) but that, in turn, creates more suffering for me. I’m at a loss and can only turn my cheek so many times before I give up. How can I deal with this in Buddhism?

Answer:

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” — The Buddha

This is one of those things that I just don’t understand. How someone else’s sexual orientation(not precisely the right term here) matters to anyone else is just beyond me. I can understand someone reacting with either acceptance or revulsion; either could be valid responses. But I don’t get anger and violence.

Almost every reference I could find about hate and violence for situations as you describe are concerned with the Buddhists’ own internal hatred and how to deal with it, not necessarily hatred by others. Here’s one story that does apply:

On one occasion, the Buddha was invited by the Brahmin Bharadvaja for alms to his house. As invited, the Buddha visited the house of the Brahmin. Instead of entertaining Him, the Brahmin poured forth a torrent of abuse with the filthiest of words. The Buddha politely inquired:

“Do visitors come to your house, good Brahmin?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“What do yu do when they come?”
“Oh, we prepare a sumptuous feast.”
“What do you if they refuse to receive the meal?”
“Why, we gladly partake of them ourselves.”
“Well, good Brahmin, you have invited me for alms and entertained me with abuse which I decline to accept. So now it belongs to you.”
From the Akkosa Sutta

The Buddha did not retaliate but politely gave back what the Brahmin had given Him. Retaliate not, the Buddha advised. “Hatred does not cease through hatred but through love alone they cease.”

Essentially, this is another way of saying “turn the other cheek.” I’m sure you already know that this is the best policy, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really help much when you are the target of hatred.

[note] I was going to end my answer with the above, but it bothered me all weekend as being woefully inadequate for the problem described. This person is hated for what she IS, not anything she’s done. I felt there had to be a better answer. Not able to think of any better advice on my own, I asked the following question on Twitter to see what came up:

How do you deal with hatred directed at you from others when “turning the other cheek” seems inadequate?

And the following answers came in. Some may be of help, but I still don’t feel any of them are going to solve the problem.

@StFrancisPlace “Pray that your enemy may be the recipient of an Enlightenment.” From the teachings of Buddha and Jesus.

@AliceSikora Understand where the hate is coming from – usually from some issue in hater (hopefully). Forgive, maintaining a safe distance.

@pcundell You can’t change what others feel or think, & if you’ve done nothing wrong you can only try and understand their point of view.

@thubtenyeshe When my teachers tell me it’s a reflection of mind I am like ‘WHAT!’ so it’s a hard one. Breathe and walk away helps a lot!

@iurbia Turn the other cheek is Christian. No Self – what is hate? I don’t know buddy, look forward to your answer.

@justuhgrrl Usually I show them no fear or pain and move along. Take the high road, then you haven’t lost your dignity or their respect.

@dongilmore FYI, I thought about the phrase “turn the other cheek.” Do you agree it could seem arrogant, passive-aggressive and baiting?

@jesolomon When ill will is directed at you, remember that the cause generally lies with the hater not the recipient.

@JulieCovey People who hate are miserable. Love, forgive. & let go of what you cannot change. You can choose your response but not others actions.

@FreedomFreedom Be the person who “writes on water”. http://bit.ly/ihAew

@dongilmore Reflect back or let pass-thru; in either case, compassion for their ignorance, without arrogance, without turning other cheek

@FreedomFreedom “How do you deal with hatred directed at you from others?” Those are THEIR emotions. Reject the emotions with a warm ‚ÄúNo thanks.‚Äù

@Robyn_Artemis In turn you don’t tolerate hate and wouldn’t treat people as such. You don’t want to be treated that way either. Walk away.

@Robyn_Artemis Treat others the way you want to be treated. Respect the other person because you want to be treated in the same way.

@Carl For help with hatred directed towards you, look into Byron Katie’s http://www.thework.com

@andraew Try not to give them the satisfaction of biting on fighting bait. (Don’t participate or encourage hateful language/arguments)

@girlscientist Depends on if it’s personal and specific or just based on impersonal things. But always compassion is required.

@SightlineCoach Let go, move on, draw a shield around self… OR… use a judo move: sidestep and let weight of hatred pull the bearer away.

@omgal A quandary. The Dalai Lama addressed this last week in Boston. At times we must stand up to hatred so others don’t suffer too.

@pantherapardus What I think I _should_ do: examine my behavior and see if I contributed to the issue in any way; repair problem if possible.

@pantherapardus How _do_ I deal with it or how do I think I _should_ deal with it? What I do: get defensive and assume the problem is on them

@rjeskow Possible advice: Examine the feelings this brings up in you. Don’t try to change it yet. Just observe.

@cataractmoon The Dalai Lama speaks much about understanding the other person, so he takes a Rogerian argument

@barbchamberlain How about “Recognize their hate is about them, not about you”?

@Kymsart I find it difficult. And often don’t succeed, but try to remove myself, be kind and practice unconditional love. It is HARD

@Kymsart I’ve experienced this. I really try to practice being kind regardless. I know they have an unresolved issue.

And as always, feel free to add your advice and suggestions in the comment section below this article on the website.

If you want to learn more about dealing with your own internal anger, the Dalai Lama covered the topic pretty thoroughly in “Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective,” (Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1559390735/?tag=askdrarca-20)

13 comments to Dealing With Hatred

  • Here’s one that just came in through email:

    When someone directs hate at me I let them know how I feel (very important for me to do that) and that I don’t like it and then I walk away and leave them alone. I do not want to lower myself to their level. I refuse to take responsibility for their hate. That is about them and not me. Being mad at me for something I may have done is different and if I owe them an apology I will apologize…but to express downright hate at me…forget it.

  • Stefanie

    I think when it comes to being abused, there are several issues one has to confront. The first is one’s fear of harm. Often in cases of “difference,” one fears that the abuser will actually physically harm them. To that I say, protect yourself, of course. Do what you need to do to feel physically safe. If this means avoiding certain people and situations, do so. This the easy part.

    The hardest part is to confront the fear that others’ abuse generates inside of us. Often that fear will cause us to read a situation as more harmful than it truly is. Consider this quote from the Buddha:

    “When people speak badly of you, you should respond in this way: Keep a steady heart and don’t reply with harsh words. Practice letting go of resentment and accept that the others hostility is the spur to your understanding. Be kind, adopt a generous standpoint, treat your enemy as a friend, and suffuse all your world with affectionate thoughts, far-reaching and widespread, limitless and free from hate.”

    The true harm in these encounters is that we can take into ourselves the misery of the other person. One way I deal with abusive people, and I have had my share, is to realize that human beings don’t want to be alone and our instinct is to create community even if that means bringing people into our own negative energy. Beneath the abuse is quite often tremendous fear and loneliness within the abuser and you, for whatever reason, trigger them to enact that unhappiness. Being able to deal with an abusive person and situation requires lots of practice and insight; don’t feel that you have to if you’re not ready.

    Finally, do not run from the despair you feel when you have encounters with abusive persons. Don’t shy away from the pain you feel inside. Go towards the feeling; what I do with feelings I’d rather not have is I mentally tell them “come on home, come in.” Accept that this action/words/attitude has caused you pain and observe the pain. Examine it and understand it in all its dimensions. Your pain, just as their behavior, is a phenomenon of dependent origination and there are many, many factors which go into the arising of their abuse and your pain. Let their abuse be the spur to your growth, for by experiencing the pain of the abuse and not casting it aside in aversion, you access the universal for we all feel pain–even your abuser. Use it as a catalyst to understand human nature. Observing it, sitting down with it, settling into the actual experience of that pain will enable detachment within you, which will lead to loving kindness and compassion.

    One a truly pragmatic level, I would advise that when you have an unpleasant encounter–do nothing. Do not respond or interact with the person, but seek solitude. Then, sit down and meditate and observe your emotions and your mind. Do not try to force anything. Just “be,” as it is, with the reality of the moment. Observe what that pain feels like in your body. Observe what thoughts go in your head. Is your thinking harried, rushed, fast, totally distracted? Do you feel like crying, shouting, striking out? Just observe. And observe long enough to diagnose what you are feeling. Then just allow yourself to feel it and don’t push it away. Sit with the feeling until you are no longer afraid of it.

    Working in this way will make other experiences of abuse, which you will have–as we all do to greater or lesser degrees–a different experience for you, one characterized not so much by seething emotional pain, but by insight into what causes suffering to arise in the first place.

    I wish the best for you and commend you for being brave enough to seek your own path in a hostile world. There are many people who are not leading the lives they wish to and are afraid to do so. You are not one of them and that is inspiring and speaks well for our world. You have already shown that you have the strength to walk in the world differently than others; you also have the strength to experience the misery of people around you and still exude only love, kindness, and happiness.

  • Larry

    The sort of hatred described in the question above is completely bizarre, though of course no less common for it’s lack of rational basis. I mean, at the most detached, uncaring (and common) level my response to someone’s decision to ‘deviate’ from a societal norm regarding sexuality is generally a yawn – i.e., “that’s nice, now if you don’t mind I’ve got 10,000 things I’ve got to deal with.” At a more thoughtful level, it’s more along the lines of “good for you for having that kind of courage” etc. I guess what I’m getting at is the platitude of who has TIME to hate like this?? Are so many people so utterly bereft of purpose and projects in their life that they have time to get themselves whipped up in a frenzy over things like this? We should really feel sorry for them and ‘pray’ that someday they find something useful with which to occupy their time/minds. Just my $0.02.

  • Amber

    Wow, that’s tough. My brother is beginning the process of transitioning to female. (He’s still using male pronouns though.) People often don’t understand. He probably gets a lot more crap from people than he tells me about. He does have a strategy for dealing with this, though.

    My brother’s way of interacting with people is to be very open with them–even about more personal things–right from the beginning. He said this often causes people to immediately dislike him or like him a lot. However, they do understand him. I think it’s hard to blindly hate someone you understand, even if they rub you the wrong way. Perhaps this way, he has averted some of their hatred.

    I think often people hate because they are afraid; they hate what they want to avoid. Some don’t understand why people are transgendered or switch sexes, to the point of being afraid they might somehow feel compelled to also, if they accept this path as being okay for others. This could be really creepy for them.

    One good way to deal with this fear (and the resulting hatred) when turning the other cheek seems inadequate could be to advocate and explain the issue of being transgendered. Sometimes you can’t do this when someone is in the process of bullying or abusing, but can be helpful in general. The more people understand the choice, the process, and the related emotions, the less they will be afraid of it.

    Hope this helps, and best of luck!

  • All of this is so beautifully said, I am linking back to this from my own blog. The struggle of “Why?” is so profound, I have been pondering it for quite some time. I get so much out of this blog, and love the commentary here. Thanks for being here.
    Su

  • Zac

    Such a plethora of responses I hope some help.

    Here’s my stance- i hope its not obnoxious and i hope it helps :)

    Pain is a part of life. When we persue happiness (through Buddhism) we begin by accepting that a condition of our life is suffering. This does not help deal with the root of the suffering, Rather it allows us to accept that suffering will be there.

    When Budhism first gave me certain salvation, I recognised that sporadic silver linings are all I can hope for, but never expect. Paradoxically, the more budhism affords me contentment and happiness, the more vulnerable i become to suffering again. As my certainty of my happiness builds through my practice, I become suprised when I am unexpectadly unhappy again. It is a cycle.

    Another perspective that springs to mind is that of ying and yang.
    Do not be offended or suprised by the hostile and incompassionate nature of some others. It is existent in its relation to its opposite. Those hurt feelings will be replaced by comfort and self acceptance. Your ability to tolerate is the existant opposite of their inability to tolerate.
    This is part of my perspective of truth. Both conditions must exist. If one is bringing me unhappiness, I have the ability to utilise that unhappiness trigger to remind me of its opposite.
    I’m not saying it feels nice – but we did learn that life is suffering, we just got comfortable when realising life was suffering allowed us more happiness – because we were feeling happy, we kinda forgot that we were gonna suffer. We can still be at peace by finding compassion and forgiveness in our self for others, sometimes it is our only choice- and it allows us to preserve our values, which can give strength to transcend the pain (sometimes).

    When I am faced by another person’s attack (or any other displeasing condition within life) – if i’m head strong and remember the freedom to choose my own perspective –
    — in the moment of hardship I allow myself to be reminded of its opposite.
    I can laugh at a time of misery and cry in my happiest moment. It is because both will always exist. If i am attached to feeling at ease, I will of course be dissapointed when something has brought me disharmony. Those two truths will forever swim in and out of my life.

    They are of course relative too, if I am beaten everyday – a light beating becomes my good day; if I am wealthy – perhaps poor stocks will distress me; if I am enlightened – perhaps poor concentration will distress me (momentarily). And opposite situations are always possible too. If I remember the opposite will come so I will be at ease with my struggle – i will have the middle perspective.
    This is part of my perspective of truth. Both conditions must exist. If one is bringing me unhappiness, I have the ability to utilise that unhappiness trigger, to remind me of its opposite.

    Also the Dalai Lama said: do not measure progress by looking back 1 hour, 1 day 1 week, or even 1 year, look back in 5-10 years and you will see significant change and progress.
    – I think the same can apply to your suffering from the opinions and unfortunate actions of others, hopefully the incedents will also decrease significantly by then.

    I’m sure like all immature acts it will grow old. Also awareness must innevitably increase over time. Hopefully with increased awareness will come understanding and tolerance.

    Try to enjoy your inner freedom and your strength to have made your decision. I doubt judgemental others have your level of self awareness and understanding.

    Inevitably (call it Karma if you want) their intolerance will stop them experiencing some aspect of life too, this can manifest in any way. Through that, you can fine tune your compassion and practice the hope that they wont bring themself suffering. We already know they can’t be happy at a deep level if they are projecting hate.
    And most importantly, never stop loving yourself! That is always your choice. rejoice in your own inner victories and let those carry you to that 5-10 year mark where you look back and again congratulate yourself.

    – I’m sorry this doesn’t change your situation, but it may offer a change in perspective that may enable you to better pursue your own happiness despite the situation.

    Peace, love, and strength to you :)

  • Abe Simpson

    If you are just dealing with hate in general, the answer is and always will be loving kindness. The buddha was probably smiling when he informed the Brahmin he would not accept his abuse.

    But something more stuck out in that question:

    “help the other person relieve their own suffering from hate and anger”

    You are the sum of your actions and your actions alone. While no-action can be just as bad as the wrong action, it is self-inflicted wound to approach this as your responsibility to “help the other person relieve their own suffering from hate and anger”.

    The book Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali has a great lesson on emotion. She explains that babies feel emotions comletely. There is no, “I’m a little unhappy” or, “I’m feel kind of good today.” They are laughing and giggling and then suddenly turn mad as a hatter, screaming at the top of their lungs only to switch right back to giggling and laughing. They feel, as we should, each emotion to its fullest extent and then they let it go. The lesson the author gives us is not to adopt that emotion. Just because my daughter is mad I won’t give her the remote is no reason for me to get mad too.

    If you are in a good mood walking down the street and suddenly somebody starts yelling obscenities at you and you become mad too, you have adopted their emotion. Now you are having a bad day too. I try very hard not to adopt others emotions, mine are enough to let go of.

    I’m not advocating ignoring wrong doing. What I am advocating is seeing the truth of your emotion and the truth of your intent in adoptiong somebody elses emotion. Make sure your intent in adoptiong their emotion is noble or you may learn Emperor Wu of Liang’s lesson on karmic merit.

  • G

    I, too, am transitioning from female to male. I think we have to realize that people are hated and threatened for so many things. If we weren’t being hated for what we are doing – it would be something else at some point in time. I know this isn’t much help, but know you aren’t alone. I don’t think any advice can make us get used to being hated or threatened. Good luck.

  • steve

    Hello!
    I would like to add my 2-cents worth.I think that alot of abuse thrown your way is because transgender is a threat to some people’s ego identity,and as we are taught in Buddhism that the self is not real.Nothing real can be threatened,nothing unreal exist’s as taught in “a course in miracles”

  • Wow. Thank you everyone for all the responses, especially Brian. Thank you for bringing this up as a topic.

    This has been a challenge and it was brought about because I was meeting with so many of my colleagues for the first time since I began my transition. I was surprised, to near tears, at how supportive they were. That said, being compassionate about others suffering (and, in some cases, hatred that stems from some experience or misunderstanding) is something I’m looking to incorporate into my being. If faced with hatred, I will stand up to it and educate others (as Amber’s sibling is doing at this point) without violence or hatred. Much like they cannot understand my path neither can I understand theirs unless I walked it (and to be honest to myself, I wouldn’t necessarily want to have that path).

    I must say that all the answers offered little glimpses of ideas and tools on how to address this with a common theme throughout: be compassionate and understanding of others without standing down to hatred and fear. So again, thank you. After reading this, a little more lifted off my shoulders (as has much since I began my transition).

    I, too, am transitioning from female to male. I think we have to realize that people are hated and threatened for so many things. If we weren’t being hated for what we are doing Рit would be something else at some point in time. I know this isn’t much help, but know you aren’t alone. I don’t think any advice can make us get used to being hated or threatened

    Oh, I don’t think I want to get used to it but find better tools to deal with it. My life has had enough pain in it (sometimes I think it was too much and sometimes not enough). I am only now, however, learning how to better deal with things like pain, hatred and fear.

    As a final minor correction or note, Brian, I use “male pronouns” now in my life (e.g., he, him, Mr, Sir.) ;) Not a major thing but an FYI. Thank you again for this forum to ask the questions that mean so much to us.

    Namaste.

  • For me, these answers only come when I nourish their Buddha nature equally and search for wisdom, where I can find it… I try to ask, what brings life?

    Determination to take refuge in the Buddha… because i think perhaps it is the strength of your faith in yourself, in your own light, that angers them so. There is a famous quote where I found a little more compassion for violence/anger/fear:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”

    But often we fight against that liberation, holding that hot coal. Then, when I see that is what is happening, I begin to open my heart to them though they may fight me with everything they have. But it is like a bird with a broken wing who, when you try to help them mend it, thinks that you are an aspect of death. So it struggles against the very thing that would allow you both to connect, heal. It is a paradox, of sorts.

    When I find that compassion, little by little, sometimes imperceptibly, harmony arises – with a little luck, anyway. Because it is not merely turning the other cheek. We seek to instil in our own hearts the firmest wish to love. A wish that abides so deeply that there no longer appears to be any reason to respond any other way than with the tenderness of a mother to a child when that child has become so frustrated with their own potential that they lash out at the very thing which would allow them to grow into themselves.

    Namaste :)

  • Alyson

    As a transgender person and a novice student of Buddhism I have been pondering exactly this question. I am turned away from jobs that I’m qualified for, I have been shunned by others, even encountered their open hostility. I have been at a loss as to how to deal with the internalized hatred I encounter. I lose days of mental equanimity over it. Stefanie’s suggestion that one should “Go towards the feeling,” is a sound one, and one I’ve heard others describe. And yet, doing this alone is very difficult. It is like a hall of mirrors, images reflecting off one another, clouding the mind, stirring uncontrollable feelings of self-hate and despair. After repeated rejections one begins to wear down, to wonder if living is worth it.

    The only balm I can consider is that eventually these feelings will pass… until the next time. All one can do is “strive on, tirelessly.”

    I’m glad I found this blog. Thanks to all. And may you all live in peace and happiness.

  • Steven

    Hatred is owned by the hater and not the hated. It is born of a life-long of closeness to the same. Under circumstances where there can be no reasoning, I would suggest removing yourself from the situation as to not provide a vessel for the hatred to travel once again.

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