Question: The Course says that fear is the opposite of love, but I thought hate was the opposite of love. Also, what is the relationship between fear and hate? Do we hate because we're afraid or are we afraid because we hate?
Answer: Hate, of course, is also the opposite of love. The Course points out this obvious fact: "And hate must be the opposite of love" (M-7.4:7). This is not really in dispute. We all know that hate is the opposite of love. Therefore, in emphasizing fear as the opposite of love, the Course must be trying to change our perception, to alter our picture of things.
The reason it is trying to change our picture is that hate sounds like strength. If love and hate are the alternatives we have, we will vacillate between them. Love is happy, but also makes us feel vulnerable, dependent—weak. Hate is unhappy, but makes us feel strong. The Course talks about this very thing:
In honesty, is it not harder for you to say "I love" than "I hate"? You associate love with weakness and hatred with strength. (T-13.III.3:1-2)
So with love and hate being the choices, we will sometimes choose happy/weak (love) and other times choose unhappy/strong (hate). Each choice has an advantage. Each one seems to fill a niche the other does not. Isn't this the story of our lives?
What happens, then, if we change the alternatives to love and fear? Fear is not only an unpleasant emotion; it also means weakness. That's why no one likes to admit that he is afraid all the time. It makes him look like a coward, a weakling.
What's more, this opposition between love and fear makes love look different. If fear is a timid act of recoiling from a powerful external danger, and if love is the opposite of that, then love must be a strong act of reaching out to meet and join with a beloved.
In other words, by making the primary opposition between love and fear, the Course has entirely recast the alternatives. Now the choices are between happy/strong (love) and unhappy/weak (fear). Not much of a choice, is it?
But how does hate fit into this picture? What is its relationship with fear? Does fear cause hate or does hate cause fear? These are very different alternatives. In one, I only attacked (hate being the source of attack) because I was afraid, because I was honestly provoked. In the other, I became afraid only because I freely chose to hate and to attack. In one, the source of it all is that things out there are threatening me. In the other, the source of it all is that I simply want to gain from hurting others.
It is clear which alternative is more attractive. Who doesn't want to excuse his attack by saying, "Look, I was just afraid; I was just responding to threat"? Yet it is also clear which alternative the Course espouses. From its standpoint, fear is the end result of a chain that begins with attack. And since attack is at root a mental thing, an attack thought, it is therefore the same as hate. The following two quotes clearly show that hate/attack is the cause and fear is the effect:
Only attack produces fear. (T-12.I.8:12)
Hate must father fear. (T-31.I.10:2)
This cause-and-effect chain will be familiar to many Course students. First, we attack, not because we have been threatened or provoked, but simply because we hope to gain from another's loss. The Course says, "No one attacks without intent to hurt" (W-pI.170.1:1). Then we feel guilty for this attack. And then we feel afraid that we will be punished. Fear, then, is the end result of hate, attack, and guilt. It is not their cause. Fear is the summary emotion of the ego because it is where all of the ego's emotions lead, not where all of them come from.
On a practical level, what this means is that when we make a choice for hate, we are really making a choice for fear, because that is where our hate will lead us. Our hate seems to be a choice for strength, a choice that will raise us to the top of the heap, but in fact it is a choice for weakness, a choice that will leave us cowering in the shadows. It will leave us waiting in dread for our sins to come down on our heads, for all our chickens to come home to roost. It will leave us feeling weak and hunted.
Love, on the other hand, will leave us feeling strong. Haven't you ever noticed that it's the strong one who can reach out with help and comfort when the going gets tough? It is love that allows us to travel through life as this passage describes: "Walk you in glory, with your head held high, and fear no evil" (T-23.In.3:1).
If we see the choice between love and hate this way, as really a choice between love and fear, how can that choice be hard to make?