I love coffee. I love cats. I love chili cheese fries. Any fans of the "Big Bang Theory" will understand that chili cheese fry reference.
I hate the heat. I hate the alarm clock. I hate when I get sand in my shorts.
As I've started to pay better attention to what I think and say, I've started examining the use of the words love and hate.
Do I really love coffee? Yes, I have to say, I really do. And I definitely love cats, especially my three-legged rescue cat, Felix, who is more like my child than my pet. Just for the record, I don't love chili cheese fries.
But how many times do we use love in a casual way? Like, "I love that dress!"
I don't really love that dress. I may like it an awful lot. I may think it's beautiful. I may think the fabric is comfortable, but I don't truly love it. If it was ruined in the wash or if I ripped it, I would be disappointed, but it wouldn't impact my life in a long-term negative way.
What about hate? How many times are we flippant with the use of that word? I don't really hate the alarm clock. I may be annoyed when it goes off early in the morning. I may be disappointed that I don't get to sleep longer. But I don't truly hate the alarm clock; it's just an alarm clock.
You may be asking yourself, "Why is this even important?"
It's important because every thought you have, every word you utter, helps shape your life and the lives of those around you. The words you say carry weight when you say them.
Once, when I was a kid, my mom told me she hated me. She was pissed about something I had done, I don't even remember what it was, but she yelled that she hated me; and then she called me ugly.
I can't tell you what we were arguing about. I can't tell you what day it was or what I was wearing or even how old I was (although I think I might have been about seven or eight) but I do remember how hurt I was.
I'm sure the alarm clock is not scarred for life when I yell "I hate you" at it at 5 a.m., but I wonder about all the other times I've over-exaggerated my love or hate for something resulting in a negative impact.
"I hate when you do that," I yelled at my ex-husband once. It was a petty thing, I'm sure, maybe how he left his shoes in the hall or he left dirty clothes on the floor just mere inches from the hamper. Whatever it was, my statement had hurt his feelings. He told me later that he felt attacked and "picked on." I didn't mean anything by it, other than just expressing my frustration, but I apologized and tried not to throw the word hate around quite as often.
The word love can cause damage too. I remember when I was younger and a boy in school told me he loved me. He was a whole grade ahead of me (a scandalous older man), and he was one of the popular kids. Popular kids didn't say they loved geeky little kids like me! I remember dancing around on cloud nine and scribbling my initials and his on the inside cover of my composition book. I went home that night and wrote him note, professing my undying love for him.
The next day, after rehearsal for a school play, I looked for him to give him the note. As I approached him, I saw him talking to another girl. As I got even closer, I saw him holding her hand, and then he kissed her.
Devastated, I waited until the other girl walked away and I tearfully confronted him. "But you said you loved me," I protested through my tears.
"I do love you," he responded. "But not like that. I mean, I love you because you're cute and funny and nice. I love you like I love my kid sister."
Insert knife into heart.
I've thrown the word love around before. I've thrown the word hate around before. Recently, I started to think about what love and hate mean to me, and more importantly, what they may mean to someone else.
When I really thought about it, there are very few things that I actually hate. There's a lot of things that I dislike -- very much, but few things that truly invoke a feeling of hate. There are also few things that I love, and I'm talking about actual things. I don't really love many objects or items, but I'm blessed to have many people in my life that I love.
I've started to tell those people that I love them. I'm actually using the word more often, but more judiciously. In fact, I'm using all my words like that these days. And I've found a joy in using an economy of words. I supposed you could say I'm on the "less is more" plan when it comes to what I say.
Love and hate are strong words; so are words like ugly, gross, passionate, cruel, forever, committed, crazy, wanted, unwanted, and stupid.
Use these words (and all your other words) carefully, thoughtfully, and intentionally.