There’s been a lot of talk about hate in recent months. A LOT of talk. I don’t need to draw you a picture.
Ironically, some of that talk has been hateful talk denouncing hate, which only seems to give rise to even more hateful talk to denounce the hateful talk used to denounce hate. And so it goes, spiraling down into the darkness. It’s an oxymoron that speaks for itself.
There have been loving responses to hate in these same months, for sure. But these responses, however grand and sincere, seem to fade quickly never really gaining traction and staying power.
Hate is a formidable foe.
Does hate spread faster that love?
For sure it does, I thought. But I wanted to be more certain.
Likely, a quick google search of the question would yield lots popular sources confirming my theory. After all, reports of hate motivated actions are increasing throughout North America. So it’s a safe bet that somebody in the popular media (say like the Atlantic, the Guardian or Psychology Today) would have written something on the topic within the last year, no?
My search came up empty. Wow.
The closest thing that Google gave me was an article on the spread of conspiracy theories written in 2015. I find that startling and a little unsettling actually. To me, the vacuum is a little bit like collectively sticking our heads in the sand.
If pop-psychology wasn’t going offer up an answer, maybe asking a scientist might shed some light on the matter? So I asked Heather Logan, a physics professor friend of mine at Carleton University who dropped in to visit me at the CU Spirituality Center for a chat.
While her answer is intuitive and anecdotal, her scientific focus opens up an interesting perspective on the transfer of emotional energy in general. She is quick to add that the answer to my question lies firmly in the realm of Psychology. Nonetheless, I find her answer compelling.
The short answer to the question is that whether or not hate spreads faster than love is that it depends on your intentions.
(If you are not interested in the rationale behind the answer, skip to the bottom. The rationale goes like this:
PART 1: Person A speaks to Person B. How this conversation will go depends in large part on what person B is expecting. And so if Person B is expecting to receive something hateful from person A, and person A says something hateful, then you will get a very efficient transfer of energy. Likewise, if Person B is expecting something loving and Person A says something loving, the transfer goes well. So the lesson of this part is this – what you actually do AS YOU ENTER a situation affects how the mood of the group will evolve. It’s a little deeper than just making a good impression at the outset. It’s really about understanding where your energy is and being really clear of what your intentions are. You can’t fake it. If you lie to yourself, you’re lying to the other person too.
PART 2: There is an inverse relationship to energy transfer also. An unexpected reaction – Person A says something loving when person B is expecting something hateful – will cause the transfer to slow down. It will take the other person some time to get it. Such a situation has an arresting quality to it. My guess is that is what is meant by shock. So, if we find ourselves in a place where there is lots of hate, only more hate spreads quickly. So, in answer to my own question, I say that while it may feel like hate spreads faster these days, it doesn’t need to be like that. What it will take to reverse the trend are two things – time and sustained faith in intentional loving actions and community. As I Christian person, I add that it seems to me that this is what Jesus taught us above all else.)
If my friend is right, it means that we really are the judge of what will spread and how fast it spreads. It means that paying attention to the spirit of the law is as important if not MORE important than the law itself.
So here is my question to you…. When was the last time you intentionally said something loving to someone, regardless of what you may have thought they were expecting?
The Apostle Paul once wrote that we are called to be vessels of GOSPEL – translated from Greek to mean “spreading of good news”. But it goes deeper than that. We are called to share the Godly love in us so that life might spread faster than death – so that light might spread faster than darkness – so that love might spread faster than hate.
Will you join me in sharing stories of sharing love in the most unlikely of places, where love stopped hate in its tracks? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love to hear them and, if you grant permission, share them with others. I really would. I think we could all use a bit of loving energy in our days. There’s been just too much hateful talk about hateful things of late.
Be blessed. Be a blessing.
Rev. Eric Lukacs