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“And then he screamed, “I hate you!” I was in shock.”

The October series, Holy Conversations, is focusing on ways to handle stressful discussions. Hearing your child, or anyone else, say they hate you makes the top of the list.

Anu didn’t know what to say to her son, but she was talking a mile a minute by the time she got to her sister’s house.

“Of course we’ve disagreed before, but he’s never gone this far.”

Divya tried to downplay the situation. “Look, all teenagers do this. He just lost his temper. It will probably all blow over in no time.”

“That’s part of the problem,” Anu said, looking away.

Divya did a double-take. “How can getting back to normal be a problem?”

“He actually said to me later that night, “C’mon, Mom – I just hated you then, not all the time.” I think he was trying to make me feel better, but it didn’t give me any comfort.”

“I want Raj to feel like he can come to us about everything, but I don’t want him to think that “normal” is saying every awful thing that comes into his mind. To me or anyone else! It’s like he doesn’t understand the impact of what he’s saying.”

She stopped for a moment. “I’m not sure he cares.”

Anu teared up. “I want our home to be filled with love. I never imagined my child would hate me, even for a moment.”

It’s natural for Anu to be triggered by Raj’s outburst. But what if she could turn “I hate you” from the last sentence to the first?

quiet-your-mind

Replacing old behaviors is challenging. A nasty reply to a vicious insult feels good in the moment. But in the long run, it only keeps the hurt going. For both sides.

When you show compassion for someone’s fears, you’re not accepting or condoning bad behavior. However, you’re choosing a different outcome, and that’s how a hard conversation changes into a holy conversation.

Let’s replay Anu’s exchange with Raj. This time, imagine yourself in her shoes, and change the character from a 14 year old boy to someone personal – a colleague, family member or someone in your social circle who’s currently acting out.

When you step back from the tantrum, what are the feelings behind “I hate you”? How about:

  • I’m frustrated.
  • Listen to me.
  • Respect my viewpoint or my way of doing things.
  • Don’t rush me.
  • I can’t admit I don’t know what to do.
  • I’m overwhelmed by all the pain I feel.

In an instant, you understand how much can be behind just a few words. Permanent change happens when we can quiet our mind enough to listen for what’s being said…and what’s not.

So what do you do the next time someone says, “I hate you” or anything close to it? Don’t shut down your mind or heart. Ask them to have a seat. You have so much to talk about.