“It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.”
Confucius, 551 – 479 BC, was a Chinese teacher, politician and philosopher who had an enormous impact on Chinese culture through the ensuing centuries. Both personal and political morality were important to him as was justice and sincerity. As well, Confucius espoused The Golden Rule: “do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself.”
In this quote, Confucius begins by asserting that it is very difficult to love, but easy to hate. As I ponder these words, I’m mindful that love is one of the most overused words in the English language. I also know that in some languages there are different words for different kinds of love. Is he speaking about the love I have for my wife, my parents, my children, my close friends, or my dog? Does it even matter? I don’t think so, and I’ll base the rest of my remarks on this premise.
At first, I was taken aback by the statement that it is easier to hate. What does that say about humanity? That we are naturally predisposed to hatred of others? Again, I doubt that’s what he’s saying. When you look at other sayings attributed to Confucius, you don’t get a picture of a person who held his fellow-man in disdain. If he did, I don’t think he would have spent his life teaching others how to live well. I know something of teachers and it is not a profession where those with jaded eyes for humanity are effective or endure for long. A real teacher cares.
So what is Confucius getting at? I think it is simply that once I have decided to hate someone, it takes no effort really to maintain that sentiment. On the other hand, loving someone takes a lot of work! We have great expectations of those upon whom we shower our affection, and how often are we disappointed? We have fights, we experience misunderstandings that result in hurt feelings, and then we have to find our way back to that sweet place in the relationship.
Finding our way back starts with the realization that the relationship is in jeopardy. I’ll assume that it is, so our next step involves a dialog – preferably one that doesn’t descend into the depths of assigning blame – despite any pain that exists. Both individuals have to be like-minded when entering such communication, in that they both must want reconciliation. If the discourse is fruitful, there will be understanding and then forgiveness. The restoration of the loving relationship will follow the forgiveness as a natural outgrowth. My goodness!! Maintaining a loving relationship is a heap of work! It isn’t for the faint of heart. It has been my experience that if the love is deep and genuine, it will be valued – and that is the motivating factor to invest the time and the energy to grow it.
That’s right, love between two people is not static. It must be cultivated… oh, oh, that sounds like more work. Yes it is – an enormous amount of work. One of the key reasons for this is that as we grow older, we change. Our outlook on life, our values and our priorities may well change. Are those who profess love for us prepared to accept that change and to make the necessary adjustments in order to safeguard the relationship? That means more dialogue. One of the ideals that Confucius emphasized was sincerity. If my love is sincere and genuine, it must come from the place of service to the other. I must be as attentive to the other’s needs as to my own – if not more.
When I hate someone, I don’t need to invest any time or effort in maintaining that state. I don’t care about their feelings, their wants or their needs. I don’t have to spend time dialoging with this person. And I’m not interested in forgiveness or reconciliation. No, I’m more likely of a mind to shoot them! So how hard is maintaining a hateful relationship? It doesn’t mean that I am predisposed to a hate-filled existence. It just underlines the truth that Confucius is teaching; that good things in our lives come at a price. And so, the question we must all face is whether or not we want love in our lives badly enough to invest in it. Life is about choices, and those that are worthwhile are never easy.