I don’t really watch that much TV, but I realized that the media can have an effect on people first-hand when I saw something on a talk show the other day. It really made me think as the day wore on.
The guest on a talk show really got fired up and started talking in a very hateful manner, not allowing anyone else to speak and share their views, which was the point of the show. This person kept going until the host/moderator had to speak over her and address the hatefulness. The moderator didn’t address what the guest was ranting about, but talked about the widespread hatefulness that seems to be so popular lately, and why she found it offensive. It was then that I noticed something odd. The person who was ranting stopped talking only to smile broadly at the reaction. It was obvious that the person spewing the hate was not just happy, but delighted! What is wrong with someone who so obviously loves to be so very mean and make others angry? Is it because they need company in their hatefulness?
I reacted with what I thought was righteous anger at the person who started spewing the hateful words who didn’t allow anyone else to speak. As I went about my day, mowing the yard, I could tell I had a change in my attitude. I thought about how I would react if someone would try to take something from my unattended garage while I stepped away into my back yard, and relished the thought of how good it would feel to catch someone taking a power tool from my garage. I would sure deal with them! I wasn’t someone to be trifled with in the mood I was in!
But it didn’t make me feel good — about myself, or anyone else.
Contrast that outcome from a particular catalyst to today. At the Neighborhood Walmart grocery, in the produce section alone, I encountered three employees who spoke to me in a friendly manner. In that pleasant mood, I initiated a conversation with a little girl choosing some apples from the bin next to me. Two more employees spoke pleasantly to me in other areas of the store, and I exchanged smiles with another shopper that I wouldn’t have made eye contact with before. The best interaction was when I spoke pleasantly to another employee who I could tell wasn’t quite as outgoing as other people working in the store. I felt good when she smiled and responded to me.
On the drive home from the grocery store, I felt much better than I did yesterday after watching a hateful exchange on TV. Witnessing good or bad things has an impression on us and I choose the goodness. It seems that some people are just hateful and can’t participate in a conversation where compromise and to respectfully disagree can happen.
I plan to refuse to engage with hateful people when possible and talk to others going about their business — like the little girl choosing apples next to me. I’ll sure feel a lot better as my day goes on.
Lovingkindness and hate have one thing in common: they are both contagious. As Ellen says, “Be kind to one another.” If for no other reason than the fact that you’ll feel better!