Fear drives hatred. We are frightened by those whom we perceive to threaten our well-being, our lifestyle, our beliefs, our freedoms, our morality. Without fear, hatred dies.

Some institutional leaders intentionally kindle dismay among people to achieve their desired results. The 24-hour news cycle (cable TV channels, some talk radio and websites) try to addict us to their news streams by making us anxious. Political parties and political action committees work to alarm us so that we vote for their candidate or issue. Some religious groups instill a terror of others—those who live differently or worship differently—to get parishioners to stay with their flock.

When we view other groups of individuals as being different from us, we are more likely to label, stereotype, condemn and promote violence against them. Labeling is one of the worst things we can do to someone as none of us is defined by one aspect of our life (see “Labeling Others is Fruitless” 12/3/2014). Singularly, our politics, sexual preferences, ethnicity or spirituality don’t define who we are.

Stop the cycle. Refuse to buy into the hype.

Hatred is unproductive; it only heaps negativity onto a situation. Name calling and spouting rage only feeds the darkness. When darkness escalates out of control, it can lead to murder, ethnic cleansing and terrorism. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

If someone lashes out at you, you’re more likely to respond unkindly because they’ve marginalized you. That type of response, though, feeds their contempt and the hatred intensifies. (See “Love the Most Powerful Tool” http://kathleenberry.com/blog/2016/06/love-the-most-powerful-tool-in-the-universe/).

We can break this cycle by following these steps:

  • Paying attention to knee-jerk reactions of dislike.
  • Determining why we feel that way.
  • Getting to know more about that person or group of people from a credible, objective source and if possible, becoming acquainted someone with that affiliation.
  • Recognizing their humanity by finding what we have in common with them.

Once we better understand those who seem so different from us, we can drop our fears and coexist peacefully.