How Can You Love Someone Who Does Something You Hate?

There is a common idea that love is more important than hate. When given an option, we should choose love over hate every time. But that’s easier said than done.

Are you familiar with the aphorism, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”? Or how about “Hate cannot be stopped with more hate. Only love can do that”? These are noble sentiments, but can you actually manage that in real life?

That means everyone, no matter what they do, or say, or how they treat you. The driver that cut you off in traffic. The partner who cheats on you with someone else. The rich jerk who refuses to leave a tip.

Republicans have to love Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton. Democrats have to love Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. Pro-lifers must love women who get abortions; people who favor gun control have to love the guy who takes an assault rifle to get his morning coffee.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where we discuss the questions ‘How can we encourage debate?’ and ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’

Now it is true that loving someone doesn’t mean you have to love everything they do, or everything they stand for. But you can’t say you love someone and then hope that they die.

Sometimes it seems like there is an epidemic of hate in the U.S. (and throughout the world), hate based on differences between individuals. That might include gender, religious beliefs, skin color or ethnic origin, sexual preferences, and on and on.

It is easy to say that we should all love each other rather than hate each other, but how can that be accomplished? How do you love someone who is different from you? Or worse, how do you love someone who actually does something you hate?

Related questions: Why do we hate? How can we encourage debate? Why is love important?

3 thoughts on “How Can You Love Someone Who Does Something You Hate?”

  1. I don’t think I have an obligation or need to attempt to love Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, an unabashedly racist person, someone who believes all poor people deserve their lot in life, or others whose actions illustrate their contempt for others. At best, I may have an obligation to be my best self in the company of such people. And part of being my best self is to act in a way that might challenge their beliefs.

    I do think love for those who repent could be an appropriate response.

    As a side note, I think the Biblical instruction to “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” while noble, is often used by some religious folks to not accept people who are not like them. Now, I don’t think this of everyone who is religious — I believe some aspire to love the people they can never fully understand. But many who call themselves religious don’t practice or aspire to this form of radical love.

    I must note that I am an atheist. I find a lot to appreciate in religious texts. But I do not believe in a higher power. I think it is my responsibility to do the best I can and serve as an example of someone who wants and works for a just and loving world.

  2. You are right but it can and does happen. I challenge and encourage you and others to find good examples. Emphasize the good to help it spread. Thanks for the thought.

  3. I think the only way to let go of hate for people who are just different in their beliefs is to try to understand how they formed those beliefs, to see where they’re coming from. To “engage” with that other person.

    I don’t think there is any way I could “love” everybody though. That cheapens the concept of love. But to accept them, yes. Unless they… I don’t know… start killing people. I don’t think I can accept a killer, particularly a political or religious killer.

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