What Is Hate?

It seems easy enough to define a word like hate. You can look in any dictionary in the real or online and find a pretty precise breakdown of what exactly hate is. All definitions will include words like anger, hostility, intense dislike, to detest, and extreme disgust towards someone, some group or some idea1. Hate is intensely emotional and usually is independent of logic. The source for these emotions is often attributed to fear, a perceived wrong, or resource allocation. It seems really quite simple someone does something, takes something, or you just fear that they might. The issue is we don’t hate everyone that does these things universally. A family member or a member of our community may get the benefit of the doubt, understanding, and will often be granted a second chance (sometimes a tenth or eleventh).  Yet, just the fear of someone from a different race or country (anyone perceived as an OTHER) committing those same hypothetical wrongs can create a deep seeded hatred for not just that individual but for their entire race/country. This complicates things a bit.

Further complications are to be found when dealing with the concept of hate. Have you ever asked anyone if they hate anyone or anything? I have asked this very question hundreds of times and have received the same answered again and again. NO! Most people will not admit to hate and may not even be conscience of the fact that they hate others. How is that possible?  How can people have these extreme emotions with devastating impact on humanity yet, some don’t know that they have them? One possible reason for this is the close link between love and hate. No, I’m not talking about romantic relationships flipping from love to hate (we will get there). What I am alluding to is the idea that the love I have for my family, friends, community, race, country, etc., justifies any strong emotions and actions taken against an individual or group that I believe poses a threat. Therefore, it is not hate, it’s justice! The funny thing about justice in this sense, is that it is completely based on perspective and is totally subjective. Caught in the egocentric wave of hormones and neural activity of “this isn’t supposed to happen to me/us” the individual is rarely interested in understanding the full picture. They don’t care what has happened in the past or to others, all that is relevant is what is happening to them right at this moment or what they perceive could happen if they don’t act. This ability has been an amazing tool used for the survival of humans since during our hunter gatherer days on the savanna. Back then you didn’t have the time to consider the big picture and understand that your actions impacted others i.e. hunting in tribe B’s  area (possibly causing that tribe to go without food) you had to provide for your tribe( A ) and for their survival. From the perspective of tribe B this is an injustice and threat to the survival of the tribe that requires actions be taken in order to ensure the survival of the tribe2.

“Battle Scene – From Rocks on one of the Branches of the O Dolowie or Thom River. G.W.S.”

Taken from either perspective both groups are fighting for survival and therefore attacking or slaughtering the opposition is not hate but merely a survival requirement, and therefore just. Now we have surely evolved more sophisticated minds, thoughts, and perceptions in this the high-tech modern era!? Sadly, we have not. In the last century or so we have created cars, electricity, television, phones, satellites, cell phones, the internet, even nuclear weapons and placed them in the hands of humans that still have the social and emotional reasoning of a caveman. How is this possible? How can the same brain’s that create and use such amazing technology still be emotionally stuck in the brutish mind set of an ancient human? It’s simple really, the human brain cannot evolve at the speed of technology. Let’s imagine that I invented a widget. I spent a large portion of my life (twenty years) working and figuring out how to make said widget. The next person to come along gets to skip that first twenty years of work and can build forward. Human brains don’t work like that, no matter how emotionally and socially intelligent I am I can not give my forty plus years of work to the next generation in a fully digestible format that they could just incorporate and innovate on. I can attempt to impart my wisdom to the next generation, but most will still have to move through life and its lessons individually and experience a lot of the same lessons for themselves. In this process I may be able to imbue a few with enough knowledge to make some of the stages and processes of life easer but I would never have the same transmission success as the widget maker. Thus, human social and emotional development is and always will be behind the curve.

Artwork by John Adams

The facts of how the human brain works is not a free pass to be an ass. I had to do it, to let you all know that I have bars! Now back to business. There are specific groups and individual peoples that have a great deal of knowledge and intent when it comes to their hate. There are groups that have a specific target or targets for their hate but still many of those same people would not define what they believe or do as hate. Perhaps this is due to lessons as a child about hate. When I was growing up hate was a bad word, you could dislike things or people but never actually use the word HATE. Now, I don’t know that this was the case for all folks all around the globe but the idea of the word hate being seen as a taboo, childhood infrastructure, as well as social pressures through adulthood could partially account for why so many people are in denial about hate. I saw this in my readings on psychological studies and surveys. Subjects with extreme positions on a particular group of people or political group still would not acknowledge that the emotions they felt were based on hate3. There have even been subjects that have committed acts of terror, who did not feel that they were acting on hate or at the very least would not admit that they were.  This creates a major issue. How do you study and create understanding on a subject that some are not conscious of and that many deny or pretend does not exist? I don’t know but we shall see how this goes.

How do we know hate? How do we understand its origins? How do we learn from it? How do we grow beyond hate? How can we stop the cycle of hate while simply denying its existence?  From my perspective we have to reveal the truth of hate look deeply into its core and explore the potential to hate that dwells in us all.


 1. Hate
 2. Sapolsky, R. M. (2018). Behave: The biology of humans at our best
    and worst. London: Vintage.
3. Pogosyan, M. (2019, November 25). Understanding Hate. Retrieved January 13, 2021,
   from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201911/understanding-hate 

4.  Gowdy, N. (2021, January 07). Barricade Down [Digital image]. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from

2 thoughts on “What Is Hate?

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