The Opposite of Love is Hate, not Fear

Nkrumah Commentary / Opinion 0 Comments

I often hear people say that the opposite of love is fear, not hate. I’m sure you’ve heard this before.

I most recently heard this assertion in a beautiful speech I read in the Huffington Post that was delivered on May 19, 2014 as part of the University of Pennsylvania’s commencement ceremonies by musician singer/songwriter John Legend.

During his speech Mr. Legend said, “We’re taught when we’re young that the opposite of love is hate. But it’s not. Hate is a byproduct. Hate is a result. Being a hater isn’t cool. Nobody wants that. But hate comes from one thing: fear. And fear is the opposite of love. It’s not a coincidence that when we talk about bigotry, we often talk in terms of fear: homophobia, xenophobia. Fear is what blinds us. Fear is corrosive. Fear makes us hold back. It whispers to us, tells us that we’ll fail. It tells us that our differences are too much to overcome. Fear locks us in place. It starts fights. It causes wars.”[1]

Mr. Legend isn’t alone in this opinion. In fact, he is in good company.

Mahatma Gandhi, the icon of non-violent civil disobedience said, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”

Now I understand that claiming that the opposite of Love is fear, not hate and that fear is the enemy, not hate are not necessarily the same claim.

Still I would like to take a moment to explain why Hate is the opposite of Love, and yet Fear, not Hate is  the true enemy of Love.

Let me begin with a quote from a reading taken on October 06, 1983 that refers to the relationship between Love and Hate as being both pure, as well as being opposites.

“Only LOVE and HATE are pure. Oh yeah, there is also a purity in HATE, but HATE is all consuming, where LOVE is all resuscitating and life-giving—nourishing. LOVE is fresh and flowing. Hate is destructive and diminishing.”

So what is fear?

First, we must understand that fear is by nature conditional.
How so? The degree of fear we experience is relative to the perceived probability of whatever it is that we fear actually occurring.
Suppose you fear spiders.
Your level of fear of spiders is directly proportionate to the perceived probability of you crossing paths with a spider.
Suppose you eye a spider in your bedroom just before you turn the lights out to go to sleep and you try to kill it but it manages to elude your shoe.
Presumably you will experience a higher than normal level of fear.
1) unlike before, you now are aware of the spiders existence and
2) presumably it now wants to extract its revenge on you for trying to introduce it to the bottom of your shoe.

Now suppose instead of making you sleep in that room we move you to a different room that has some newfangled spider repellent being pumped through the ventilation system that is imperceptible to us humans but has been proven by experiment to be repugnant to spiders. Let’s say that all known species of spiders will do anything to get as far away as possible from the smell of the repellent reducing the chance of you coming across a spider in that room to some mathematically inconceivable low probability. If we could do that you wouldn’t experience much fear at all, if any.

Now that is how fear normally works. But not always.

When our level of fear is not proportional to the probability of whatever we fear occurring we call that an irrational fear.

So if you fear falling even when you are lying flat on your back on the ground, that is called an irrational fear.

Now people fear all type of things. People fear change. People fear crossing the road. People fear being scratched. The root of fear is the same. We fear because we see ourselves as a destructible object. Whether its a fear of blushing, laughing or nudity, whatever it is we fear we believe will break us.

So how does fear and hate relate to one another?

Fear is the result of viewing ourselves as a destructible object, and there is only so much we can fear something before we are driven to destroy whatever it is we fear.
This is why when you see a spider crawling around in your bedroom you reach for a shoe to kill it.

It is when we get to that point, where we move to destroy what we fear that we find Hate.

I agree with Mr. Legend when he said that hate is a “result”. Hate is the end result and fear is the path to get there.

In fact, according to a FBI Law Enforcement report, the ultimate goal of all Hate groups is to destroy and annihilate the object of their hate.
But they ALWAYS use fear to recruit. (Schafer, The Seven-Stage Hate Model: The Psychopathology of Hate Groups, 2003)

White Aryan Resistance youth leader Greg Withrow says so in reference to how he was raised, “…before I ever learned to hate, I learned to fear” (“Hate Violence Today”)[2]

This is why Mahatma Gandhi said that the enemy of Love is Fear not Hate. We fear what we believe will break us or destroy us. And when I say break or destroy us I don’t meant just physically, I also mean mentally and spiritually.

The reason fear is so dangerous is because it turns our attention inward, limits our capacity to love, and if we let it, fear seals ourselves off from love altogether.
Hate is not intense fear but the desire to destroy the object of our hate.

Unlike fear, Hate doesn’t diminish in intensity because the probability of you crossing paths with your object of hate. This is why Hate is all-consuming. It isn’t relative like fear is. And there is an energy that comes with hate that can only bested by Love.

And like Love, once a person has truly given their mind over to hate, it is nearly impossible for them to ever return from that place.


[1] All in on love John Legend. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[2] Schafer, John R. and Navarro, Joe. “The Seven-Stage Hate Model: The Psychopathology of Hate Groups.” Air University. March 2003. Web Text. 5 Nov. 2010

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