How do I still love the people who do things I hate? I have a brother-in-law who does things that I absolutely hate. He is always being negative and mean to my sister and he treats her poorly. And I just can’t help but hate him for it. I don’t want to hate him, but I do. Please help me.
Thank you for writing in. 🙂 You’re asking for help with a situation that so many other people also find themselves in.
Here’s something really important that I want you to consider: Perhaps you don’t hate him as a human being. Perhaps you simply hate how what he does makes you and your sister feel.
For example, perhaps you hate the feelings of powerlessness you feel in not being able to help create a more peaceful world for your sister? Perhaps you hate feeling so helpless and so unable to protect her? Perhaps you hate knowing that she’s hurting so much and there’s nothing you can do to change it for her. Perhaps you hate that you can’t control or change this outcome for her.
You see, we don’t typically hate people (even though we think we do). But we can certainly hate how other people’s actions can make us feel. And feelings of powerlessness and pain are usually pretty big triggers for projecting feelings of “hate” onto another. The problem with this strategy is that it will keep you stuck and in a powerless place of hate and self-shame.
So, my first recommendation to you would be to see what’s really bothering you. Hate is almost always just a cover-up for emotional pain and/or fear; and the pain/fear usually lies just underneath the hate. Until you get in touch with the real pain/fear, you’ll be stuck in the hate-laced, blame game that will make you feel like crap (because I gather you’re not the kind of person who wants to run around hating other people; there are never positive feelings that come from that).
Once you get in touch with your true feelings and what’s really being triggered in you, I’d recommend you let yourself feel all that pain and all the fear that you’re ready to feel. For me, sometimes that means I cry, like a balling-my-eyes-out kind of cry that can last for hours; other times I punch pillows; sometimes I go for a ride in my car and scream at the top of my lungs; other times I put on my boxing gloves and kickbox with my bag for a while; sometimes I go for a fast run; and other times I can simply pray and meditate and feel everything I need to feel. Do whatever feels good and right to you, so long as it’s safe and doesn’t violate you or someone/something else.
And then after you’ve allowed yourself to feel what you need to feel, you can then channel all the energy you spent hating him into more productive actions, such as spending more time positively supporting yourself and your sister in ways that best honor her, her choices, her journey, and yourself.
I know it may seem impossible right now to honor her choices since they are choices you would not make for yourself (or for her), but one thing that has helped me to learn how to do this is the belief that every person has a journey to complete in their lifetime. And I believe we are each guided to the people and experiences that can help us complete our journeys, and sometimes these people and experiences can bring forth feelings of pain. But I’ve learned that our hardships prepare us for living our purpose and they can help us to develop the strength we need to thrive; in other words, there can be purpose in our pain. I find great truth and a deep personal peace from this belief.
I’ve also learned that if we want peace in our own lives, we must accept the choices other people make for themselves, even if we don’t like their choices, and it sounds like your sister has made a choice — for reasons you may never understand, and perhaps aren’t supposed to. Perhaps your only lesson in all of this is to learn how to love more fiercely. To love less conditionally. To #chooselove, even when it’s damn hard to. To have more compassion even when it feels like the last thing you can/should do. And why, you may ask? It would be so that you can keep your peace, your compassionate soul, your happiness, and so many of the things you love and value about you. And therefore, you can show others the way.
One trick I’ve learned to stay in a place of compassion, even when I’m being triggered, is to remember that people who mistreat other people are usually people in pain. And they likely feel stuck and afraid and just don’t know how to channel that pain into what they really crave: feeling safe, secure, and loved. And so they project their pain as a means of self-protection, however misguided it is.
I know what it’s like to carry deep pain. I’m sure you do too. Therefore, channel that remembrance, perhaps, when you’re thinking about your brother-in-law as my guess is that he’s just a man in pain and completely unaware of how to stop the pain, so he projects it onto other people, your sister included. Having compassion for him does not mean that you believe poor treatment is acceptable. It simply means that you are staying in your power as a loving being, which is a much more powerful position to be in. For that is the strength and power one needs to create healthy boundaries and no longer accept or be a part of dynamics that are not honoring.
Here is a post I wrote a few years back when I was going through a situation in my personal life and trying to figure out what needed to shift in ME so that I could love a person who was doing things that made him super easy for me to hate. I knew then what I know now: it was my time to grow. I thought this post may be helpful to you as well.
Thank you for writing in to us and thank you for loving your sister enough to want the very best for her; I want the best for all of you (your brother-in-law included). If I can be of more assistance, please write back in to me. It would be my pleasure to help.
With love, gratitude, grit, and grace,