It has been said there is a fine line between love and hate, and over 20 years of practicing family law, I must concede it is true; there is a fine line between love and hate indeed. I have witnessed too many times those who once looked into each other’s eyes and vowed to love each other until the end of time, now “hate” one another, ready to spend it all to get back, get even and make them pay.
An entire genre of country music encourages destruction as payback for someone’s lying and cheating ways. The same intensity that fuels love, fuels hate. To hate you, I have to actually care. Be mindful of all those people who advocate starving out your spouse, using your children as weapons, hiding money, ruining someone’s career, destroying possessions, posting nasty details on Facebook and generally doing anything to “get back” at someone you once loved. They may have their own issues. However, if love is a choice, then so is hate (a word I dislike so much, I have trouble actually writing it down.) Hate is a passionate emotion often driven deep into our hearts where it stays, coloring our world, taking our focus from the happiness that could otherwise be ours.
So many positive things are born from love, they are too numerous to list. It is essential to our lives to feel loved and to give love. There is nothing positive that comes from hate. It takes time, it takes effort. In a divorce, it costs money. There is a direct correlation between hate and the amount of money you spend in your divorce. In life generally, hate takes our attention off what is really important. In the end, time is the most important commodity we have in life, and wasting one more minute of it than necessary is the real loss in divorce.
Rest assured there are divorce attorneys who want you to hate. They may even encourage it, pointing out all the reasons you should. They say you are entitled to hate the other person who deserves it for doing x, y, z. Fueling the fire happens when attorneys ignore what is best for the client and unfortunately, are sometimes encouraging the fight, as it results in higher fees for them. Hate is never the answer.
Hate is really a gift to those who would want to see us hurting. It is powerful to be able to make someone feel hate. We take back our power when we choose to love instead. If hate is a choice, what can I choose instead? Maybe forgiveness, maybe pity or, if all else fails, try apathy. Perhaps you can feel sorry for someone rather than “hating” them by simply realizing they are missing a part of their soul, unable to appreciate goodness or really feel love themselves. I give no one the power to make me hate them. Not even after the abuse, did I hate, not even for a minute. Yes, I was angry and hurt, but hate, no way. He wasn’t worth the trouble. I wished him well for the sake of my child, and I used the energy to find love. Our time here is just too short.
I learned this simple lesson, to choose love, on a Metro ride to work in downtown D.C. one morning many years ago.
I was standing near the door holding onto the pole with only a few stops to go, when a stranger said, “Go, sit down.”
“It’s okay,” I responded, “I’m getting off soon.”
He said again, “I said go sit down!”
Oblivious to his anger that I was in his personal space, I again assured him I was getting “right off.” He jumped up walked around me, spit on me, shouting and screaming what a stupid bitch I was. I stood paralyzed as a man in a business suit put his hand on me and said, “Don’t turn around, don’t move.” Terrified, I began to sob, body shaking silently.
A woman stood up, threw her arms around me and said, “Don’t worry; I am not going to let him hurt you.” She stood holding me defying him to move toward her by looking right at him, and she followed me off the Metro. Then she looked at me and said, “You are okay. You never have to see him again. Just think of his mother, his sister, his wife. Think of how unhappy he must be to be filled with such rage.” This woman’s words redirected any feelings of anger toward him to sadness and empathy. He did this awful thing because he was broken somewhere. Most importantly, she showed me how to choose forgiveness in the instant I needed it most. I realized now I could have chosen hate, but what would that have accomplished?
Unfortunately, people do terrible things to those they “love” and to strangers every day. Crossing that fine line can turn someone we love into someone worthy of the darkest emotion, if we let it. Be wary of those who encourage hate over love. Find friends, family and legal counsel who encourage forgiveness and understanding. The scorched earth tactics burn everything to the ground.
So I will continue my insistence that my children do not “hate” anything. I will not provide it as an option or an example. I will continue to say it is a bad word and force them to another less harmful description of their emotions. I will continue to say they do not hate each other, or broccoli, school or getting up early. I will continue to remind my clients that hate brings nothing good to us. Hate is a poison that causes us to fight unnecessarily, spend money litigating frivolously, keeps us from healing, takes away our happiness and chips away at our soul. Remember at least one thing you loved about this person. Think about the love you shared once and be grateful for the happy moments. If it was awful, be glad you are free (which you can never be with hate in the picture.) We should all stay on the side of love no matter what, ever aware of the great costs of crossing that very fine line. The financial costs are only the beginning, trust me.
Forgiveness is just one more way to put people like me out of business, or at least have us driving a cheaper car.
M. Krista Barth is an attorney licensed in Florida, New York, Maryland and Washington D.C. She is a 20 year veteran of the practice of divorce law and divorce survivor. Krista has spoken on issues of Family Law for National Organizations, television, and has acted as lead counsel representing a variety of high-profile and high net worth individuals. Her philosophy focuses on reducing the collateral damage of divorce and helping clients with children understand they are still “family”.
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