How to Avoid Becoming the Person You Hate

Have you ever noticed how people often become the very thing they hate?

A man grows up with a cold and abusive father, and ends up becoming a cold and abusive father himself. A woman feels trapped in a marriage with a critical and angry husband, and in turn she becomes critical and angry toward everyone around her.

A generation of people feel rejected by the church, so turn around and reject those who first rejected them.

I’ve found this tendency in myself, as well. I was abused as a child—lied to, tricked, manipulated, used. I hated the person who did that to me. But until I realized what was going on, I actually began using these same tactics as an adult to get what I wanted out of people and relationships.

How can we avoid this sad and messy pattern?

The first things that come to mind are things like addressing the bitterness in our hearts, finding forgiveness, love and healing. Those are all wonderful steps that will certainly contribute to our ability to choose for ourselves how we will act, rather than being controlled by the actions of others.

hate

But there’s a less obvious answer I think is equally as important.

It goes like this: Don’t avoid anything.

In other words: what if, instead of investing all of our energy into what we don’t want to become (mean-spirited, critical, angry, abusive) we invested our time and resources toward what we do want to become (loving, kind, gracious, forgiving, etc). This might seem like a minor distinction, but I believe it’s really important.

Dr. Caroline Leaf is the author of a book called “Who Switched Off My Brain?” where she shares how toxic emotions work to control our reality. Something from that book has been on my mind ever since I read it. Leaf says there are only two primary emotions: love and fear.

If we’re feeling one, Leaf says, we can’t feel the other.

That was shocking to me, honestly, and really convicting.

Because it means that anytime I’m scared of anything (running out of money, being hurt, or becoming like someone I hate) my fear is literally taking up the space where love could exist. The more fear I’m holding, the less love I can manage.

This lines up with scripture as well, which says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:8).

Additionally, we tend to move in the direction of our focus.

Have you ever noticed that? It’s the same concept as “keep your eye on the ball,” or “don’t look behind you, or your opponent will pass.” The basic idea is simply that we move in the direction we’re pointed.

So in other words, the more I focus on a person I hate, the more I meditate on their behavior, the more I consider how I can avoid becoming like them, the more I become like them. The more I resist becoming like something I dislike, the more I accidentally move toward those qualities.

What if I took my focus off of hate and fear altogether, and simply turned my focus toward love?

What if I stopped paying attention to what I don’t want to be, and started paying attention to what I do want to be instead? I wonder if that would make all the difference in the world.

15 comments on “How to Avoid Becoming the Person You Hate

  1. Happy New year Allison,

    What a timely message as I try to clean up some messes I have made when I operate in fear. One big thing for me is manipulation. When I am afraid I try to manipulate people and outcomes only to a destructive end. I am this year on a journey with Jesus to just know that He loves me and that with Him and IN Him no manipulation is needed. I am fully excepted as I am I don’t have to work overtime for that to be a fact. Keep up the the post. They are blessing to my life.

    Cecilia

  2. Hello Allison, thanks for this, funny thing is I was discussing the same with a friend today. The moment you keep telling someone what not to do it eventually becomes what they want to do because it’s all they know instead tell them what to do. I pray that God will continually bless you so you can continue to be a blessing to u. I Love You and I wish you a prosperous and glorious new year.

  3. Moving in the direction of your focus is a really important concept. I often think about what I’m afraid will happen, when I would be so much better off thinking about what I want to have happen. Thanks Allison!

  4. I recently subscribed to your blog posts after reading Packing Light. I absolutely loved that book!!! I just lent it to a young woman I mentor (whom I will forward this very timely blog post to) and I know she will glean from it as well. I love your honest, fresh, and candid writing style. Thank you for sharing your heart with us readers. Blessings to you.

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  6. I’m just stumbling across this post now.

    This post is very nicely written and I enjoyed reading it 🙂

    I think it’s a great to focus more on our more positive emotions, all of which are manifestations of Love. However, I think the first step on the path to becoming what we hate is to deny that we have that very same darkness inside ourselves. Thus denial is the first step towards becoming what we hate. We first deny that those dark parts we don’t like are part of us, then we devalue the other(s) in some way in order to justify our judgments (blame). Thinking/saying “I will never be like X” is actually the first step to becoming X. We must acknowledge those parts of ourselves and be aware of them so we can recognize them when they arise.

    For me, the irony of becoming what we hate is well illustrated in the Star Wars saga of Episode III, where Anakin becomes Darth Vader. By the end of the movie, Anakin is fully operating from fear. He’s enraged, jealous, vindictive, a murderer [and a murderer of children] and consumed by vengeance (the list could keep going). His anger and aggression is his cover for his deepest fears.

    I first heard there being only Love or fear to choose from in the book “A Course In Miracles.” It’s been a life changing text for me and has really helped me to become more aware of when I’m operating from Love or fear. I’ve learned from both the text and the workbook that fear comes in many, many forms. As strange as it may sound, sometimes what seems to be coming from love (or loving) is actually just another form of fear (for example, certain behaviors in codependency). The more that I am able to recognize all the hidden forms of fear, the more I make room for Love in my life. As your article has stated in not the same words…fear is a blockage to love.

    For me, A Course In Miracles **IS** the message and core teachings the person known as Jesus brought to the world over 2,000 years ago. I was raised Catholic so the Course’s symbolism resonates with me deeply.

    Thank you for the article.

    Peace to the person reading this right now.

  7. This is all very true. My father was a very angry unpredictible fearful demanding mean unsatisfied person and my mom constantly told me not to be like my father. I always focused on that and thought that I had become just the opposite. Now at 65 I realize All the things I did my life that I thought were the opposite of him were actually just as he had done and that I became even worse than he was😞 and just realized how many people I hurt most notably myself in the process because I began hating myself and destroying myself as I let others manipulate and hurt me. Always acting out of fear and feel like there is no way out as I hide from myself!!

  8. So glad I stumbled upon this post. I fear I am becoming who I don’t want to be. I love my father, but he has some qualities that I don’t want to embody. And yet…I find myself falling into that hole, and it bothers me deeply.

    I really enjoyed your post! Prayerfully moving forward in love.

  9. Hi Allison

    thank You so very much for your post. I am in a very dark place. Both in my Life and in my relationship with my girlfriend, but your words really made me realise a few things.. So thank you for that.

    I immediately begun following You on Instagram, to see how You can positively enrich my life even more.

    Grant

    • Grant, so sorry to hear about the dark place you’re in. Keep fighting for the light. This won’t last forever, I promise. Glad I could bring some encouragement. Let me know if there is any other way I can help.

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