Sitting in the sandwich shop the other day, I noticed a young man wearing a baseball cap. On the back of the cap, in lovely embroidery, it said “I love haters.” At first I was put off by this statement. I thought to myself, “What?! You enjoy and encourage people who hate? Don’t people who hate cause all kinds of harm in the world? Don’t people who hate cause suffering?” I wondered whether this young man was simply wearing the hat to cause a stir. Or whether he was identifying with haters, loving them as only a fellow hater could.
But the more I thought about this phrase, the more I realized that this is a wise person’s statement. I love haters. I embrace even those that have aversion to me, or to someone or something else. I am able to find a warm place in my heart for those who cannot find a warm place in their heart. Whether or not I agree with them, whether or not others agree with them, whether or not they understand or I understand, I am still able to embrace them.
It puts me in mind of Shakyamuni Buddha’s oft quoted teaching in the Dhammapada:
“Hatred never ends through hatred.
By non-hatred alone does it end.”
That is to say, the only way to deal with haters is not to hate them. Hating haters only robs you of energy for life, and gives them more energy to fight against. Responding in kind only adds fuel to the fire of hatred. Hating hatred allows hatred into your own heart and mind. Why would you want to do that? The only way to have peace in your heart is to make peace with haters.
In fact, one thing you might notice when you begin to love haters is that you may have a bit of hater in you too. There may be some part of you that is a hater. So the same teaching applies. You could to treat the hater in you with non-hatred and see what happens. See whether that helps the situation, whether it helps you to let go of the hatred, instead of fueling it or covering it up.
Now, to be clear, that may or may not have been that young man’s message. But for me, the phrase “I love haters” takes on a new meaning. And to be clear, loving haters does not mean allowing them to be destructive forces in the world. That is more like ignoring haters. I believe that the best way to love one another is to ensure that our behavior has appropriate consequences, both positive and negative. Yet those consequences have to come from the mind that embraces haters, or it will simply be destructive and arbitrary. It is like the difference between verbally reprimanding a child for disrupting the class, and hitting the child with a ruler. In the end, hitting the child only teaches them the lesson that the one with the stick gets their way. This is not the Buddha Way. The Buddha Way is, “I vow to embrace haters. I love haters.”