This was first published on ksl.com
It is the tendency to let differences create fear. Understanding this aspect of human behavior is critical to creating change in our world, and it's something you can start changing right now.
Here are three principles of human behavior that explain where hate comes from and how to change it:
1. When fear is triggered, we behave selfishly, in defense of ourselves
Many of my articles talk about how fear drives bad behavior because it makes us selfish and overly concerned with our own well-being (and less concerned about others). There are two core fears in play in every conflict or people problem.
The two core fears are the fear of failure (the fear of not being good enough) and the fear of loss (losing out or having our journey diminished in some way). Fear of loss includes fear of physical harm, mistreatment, disrespect or being burdened, while fear of failure includes being criticized, judged, dishonored or insulted. Conflict, racism, discrimination and hate can happen when people trigger any of these fears in us, though it may often be subtle and subconscious.
For example, if your spouse or friend has a different political view than you have, you could feel dishonored, disrespected or criticized for your view, and this could make you defensive and behave in a disrespectful way to them. This bad behavior comes from your fears of failure and loss being triggered.
Read more about fear here.
2. Differences create judgment
As human beings, we are hard-wired to subconsciously judge everything. When we see any differences, in any two things, we automatically assume one is better and the other worse. This is a core foundational belief, and it may affect your perspective every minute of every day.
Imagine walking into a room and there is one stranger you have never met in the room. The first thing that happens for both of you, at the subconscious level, is measuring, comparing and judging. We hate to admit this is true, but our subconscious minds are trying to determine where we fit.
Should we be intimidated or comfortable? Are we socially or economically above or below them? Are they friendly or cold? Are they part of “us” or part of “them”? All of this judging happens very quickly and is mostly subconscious.
We also do this in other aspects of our lives. If we cheer for the red football team and someone else cheers for blue, our subconscious mind, again, assumes that one is better and one is worse.
We seem to love dividing ourselves by differences. We divide our world into groups like political party, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, school, neighborhood, hair color, clothes, even which soda we drink (Are you a Coke or Pepsi person?) or which sandwich spread we prefer (Are you a mayo or Miracle Whip person?). We look for differences everywhere and subconsciously find our way as the right one, and “them” as bad or less.
Take a minute and think about all the groups to which you belong — your race, religion, gender, nationality, neighborhood, school affiliation, profession, height, weight, hair color, etc. How often do you feel superior to the people who aren’t in your group?
This could be the beginnings of hate, and if we keep letting this subconscious tendency happen unchecked, it will create problems in our lives and relationships.
3. Differences trigger fear and create bad behavior
Because we are all subconsciously afraid of being insulted or taken from, when “they” gain any power, gain in numbers, influence, recognition, fame or in any way threaten to be more or better than “us,” we get afraid. We could be afraid of physical harm, mistreatment, disrespect, being burdened or taken from, criticized, dishonored or insulted. Feeling fear of these things can make us feel justified in protecting ourselves. These fearful feelings might even make us feel justified in being selfish, rude, disrespectful or even hateful toward another human being.
Think about the last time you felt mistreated by a company, restaurant or store. Did you feel at all justified to be angry, mean or harsh to their employee because you felt taken from? Do you see how fear of mistreatment can subconsciously justify bad behavior?
According to the New York Times, the gunman in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting had expressed views online that Jewish people were the “enemy of white people.” He saw this particular group of people as a threat to his way of life. His fear of loss was triggered by "them," and he was afraid they would become more successful or more financially powerful than his group. His fear became so bad he even justified killing.
We cannot always influence other people and their fear issues, but we are responsible for ours. It is our responsibility to check ourselves for this tendency to see “us” and “them.”
You can start by watching for judgment and not seeing yourself as better than any other human being. This can start at home, by making sure you never cast your spouse or other family members as the bad or wrong one and talk down to them. Stop finding fault or judging other human beings for their choices, views or differences. Commit to seeing all human beings as having the exact same infinite value as you have.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a speaker and coach and the creator behind the 12 Shapes Relationship System — helping to create a more tolerant world app.12shapes.com
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.