The other day, my four year-old daughter informed me, after I had used the word during dinner, that “hate” is a bad word. I apologized and told her that I’d work on limiting its use. This turned out to be a difficult exercise.
I think I agree with her that it’s a bad word. It is inherently negative and applied far too liberally by far too many people. We are eager, it would seem, to express our distain for so much despite having so much to be grateful for. The effect is a general disgust for the world.
More on that later, but first let me say that I like bad words. I use them frequently in the right company. But bad words, like alcohol or the thesaurus, are not for everyone. You shouldn’t use them unless you really know what you’re doing.
The same rules of style apply to “hate” as other four-letter words, and there is something else we should recognize when we use it. It connotes intolerance and unrecognized privilege. “I hate this food.” “I hate my wardrobe.” “I hate exercising.” Saying these things makes you forget that you have food. You have something as grand as a wardrobe. You have the ability to get your heart racing, your blood flowing, and your lungs filled with air.
Using “hate” creates a negative space and negative frame of mind. It’s not about moving forward or making things better. At best, it’s about pouting, and at worst something much darker and evil. Hate is easy. It’s for the weak. Anyone can hate. It’s the primary element of xenophobia, racism, and misogyny. It’s what cowards do who are too dumb or too lazy to make the world a better place. Hate is the default mode of demagogues and their rabid followers.
So, while it can be easy to use “hate” when we are frustrated or angry at one of the countless things that we deal with on any given day, saying “I hate…” puts us in some pretty bad company.
Now, one might wonder how it is that my daughter came to understand that “hate” is a bad word. It undoubtedly has something to do with her mother who is made of anti-hate things like love, kindness, and beauty—not easy in this day and age. But it also has to do with who my daughter is, and more to the point, who she is not. My daughter is not a princess. We do not treat her like a princess. We do not want her to be a princess*.
Princesses are all about taking and getting. They are served and spoiled—consumed by consumption. Their every pronouncement is either about wanting what they don’t have or hating what they do have. Our society today likes to make superstars out of these kinds of people, and it is more than possible that I was expressing my opinion of them or their kind when I was admonished by my daughter for using the H word at the dinner table.
Our daughter will work for a living. She will make contributions and give to others. She will make a significant positive difference in this world. The ability to do those things are not in a princess’s repertoire because a princess is too preoccupied with herself. A princess, exhausted from not getting her way, fills her day with hating. Our daughter will fill her days with doing, creating, and discovering.
I, too, would like to be that kind of person when I grow up. Perhaps one of the ways I can make that happen is by easing up on the hating.
* Parents who dress their children up like princesses and call them their little princess are loving, wonderful people. They're probably better parents than I am. That's not what this is about.