Stop Defining Yourself By What You Don’t Like

There is more to life than the things you hate.

“I hate Twilight,” I blurted to my coworkers a few months back. “Not only is the plot shallow, the character development is pathetic, and seriously, Stephenie Meyer needs a thesaurus. The fact that the books are bestsellers reveals just how stupid our nation has become.”

I’ve never read any of the Twilight books, so these musings weren’t based off experience. They were unoriginal, regurgitated vitriol I’d previously read on Internet forums, newspaper columns and book reviews.

I decided I hated Twilight from the moment I first heard about it, so while I refused to read the books, I read negative material on them to “build my case.” If I hate something, it’s important that I understand why so I can defend my opinion to others and publicly decry the object of my loathing. I do my research. And then I talk.

What compels us to draw a line in the sand and separate ourselves from the things that we find repellant, tasteless or wrong?

I am constantly blabbing to others about all the things I dislike. I can quickly come up with a list of things I don’t care for and am liable to launch into a rant about any one of them at any time. Certain politicians. Several different musicians. A popular frozen yogurt chain. School district boards. McMansions. People whose life choices don’t reflect my personal values. Hummers. Ben Affleck as host on Saturday Night Live.

Here I go again.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to our local bookstore on a quick date away from our 6-month-old daughter. I instantly picked up a book on a particular parenting philosophy that I’m vehemently opposed to and spent the next 30 minutes poring over the passages I most disagreed with. This will help me explain to others why I’m against this parenting style, I rationed.

My husband, who knows me too well, recognized my maneuver right away.

“Why don’t you pick out a book that you do like?” he said. “Instead of getting all worked up about something you don’t?”

His words, which annoyed me at the time, lingered with me long after we left the bookstore that night.

Why do we love to talk about what we hate? What compels us to draw a line in the sand and separate ourselves from the things that we find repellant, tasteless or wrong and then make our opinions known to our coworkers, our friends and our Twitter followers?

Perhaps it’s about insecurity.

If I openly bash teen vampire books, maybe I’ll be perceived as someone who appreciates finer literature. If I rant about parenting methods I find repulsive, maybe nobody will ask me about what type of parent I do want to be. It’s safer, in a sense, to share with people impassioned negativity than to share with them something closer to our hearts: the things we like. Or daresay, the things we love.

On a larger scale, the Church does this too.

We often define ourselves by the things we stand against, thinking it makes us special. We talk a lot about sin. About the things we’re not supposed to do. About the things our culture does that we, as a Church, denounce.

There’s a scene in Liberal Arts, a nostalgic coming-of-age indie film directed and starred by Josh Radnor (of How I Met Your Mother), where 35-year-old Jesse, a self-proclaimed literature aficionado, is negative and judgmental about a book that his college-aged, free-spirited girlfriend enjoyed.

"You think it's cool to hate things,” she tells him. “And it's not. It's boring. Talk about what you love, keep quiet about what you don't."

It’s safer, in a sense, to share with people impassioned negativity than to share with them something closer to our hearts: the things we like. Or daresay, the things we love.

The Apostle Paul addresses the issue in scripture.

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Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

It may be awkward at first (especially for those of us who have skated through our 20s on a decade-long wave of cynicism) to share our authentic self with others. It might feel kind of uncomfortable to put ourselves on the line and talk about our passions, our dreams and the things that fill our hearts with joy.

As I attempt to cleanse my mind from the constant negativity I spew, I’m focusing thoughts on the things God put in this world that make life rich, like love and grace and swimming on a hot day and a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. I’m going to start thinking on those things—and talking about them too.

I’m challenging myself, and the Church, to start talking about the things we love.




Sarah commented…

Great perspective.

Venus Emma Marigmen


Venus Emma Marigmen commented…

Finally! Some positive read. People should be reminded of this more. I myself am guilty of this. What annoys me too is when people start whining about something they hate (esp. a book or a movie) when in reality, they haven't even read or seen it yet. That's negativity and hypocrisy right there.

Rob Wiese


Rob Wiese commented…

I think that we talk about things we don't like because it helps the conversation start or keep going. When two people agree on a topic, point by point, there is nothing really to discuss. A perfectly brewed cup of coffee is more in the category of "enjoy the little things in life" which is important for everyone to learn how to do. But when two people disagree on an issue, there is much to discuss with one another (hopefully in a respectful manner), even if there is very little disagreement.

If you dislike or hate things, but have never read or experienced them, then you have no place to speak about such things which is more of a humility issue. Instead of being so prideful and ignorant of such things, experience those things so that you are informed to make a valid judgment for yourself (of course with the exceptions of blatant sinning against God i.e. homosexuality, hatred, greed, etc.).

For example, I myself love the TV show South Park. Not because of its crude humor, which is often the stuff I don't laugh at, but rather its brilliant satirical writing on current issues in our country and exaggerating the circumstances of which their characters are set in. I would say many Christians judge South Park as a whole before watching an entire season, but that is usually because they are uncomfortable in distinguishing what is good craftsmanship and what is garbage writing as it relates to their walks with God.

But with the quote of Ephesians of letting no corrupt speech come from your mouth, I would challenge you to read into that passage deeper and really mull over what it's saying. Corrupting speech is really worthless speech. The words that come out of our mouths should be edifying something or someone no matter the context. Even better corrupting speech is condemning speech which is often equated to gossip, I would say. We should never condemn someone for anything, but reach out to them with a teaching and gentle instruction that builds them up and encourages them to keep persevering. Sometimes blunt honesty is the best way to have truth reach someone. And sometimes a gentle empathetic weeping next to someone you care for with soft words of encouragement are the best remedy.

But we must be able to discern for ourselves what we can and cannot handle. If something persuades your behavior too much, then as Jesus would say, "Cut it off!"

Stay alert. Keep up your guard. Critically analyze everything you make a judgment on. Take control of your mind and submit every thought to God and discuss it with Him. He'll answer your questions in time.

Ali Miller


Ali Miller commented…

Funnily enough, I've never really had this problem - though I know many people who do. I'm what you'd call a "fangirl"... very active in circles where people discuss the things that inspire them (books, movies, TV, music - any medium you can think of). I attend conventions for the things I love. I find inspiration everywhere, in both the highbrow and the lowbrow - embracing "pretentious" and popular literature with equal gusto. :)

It has always mystified me why people spend so much time ranting about the things they hate. I love that quote you used from 'Liberal Arts' because it's true - criticism is good when it facilitates constructive discussion, but when its sole purpose is to tear something down in order to be perceived as 'cool' or 'intelligent', there is nothing more boring.

As the saying goes... it's easier to destroy than to create. Paying attention to what resonates with you (and asking why it does) is always healthier than mocking what doesn't.

Anyway... good article!

(I also think it's helpful sometimes to ask why things you hate - like Twilight - *do* resonate with certain people. For example, I actually find the Twilight series frustrating not so much because of the poor writing, but more because the female characters are weak and define themselves around men in a way that is unhealthy/unwise... it's a good example to point to when discussing relationship dynamics.)

Jessica Casner


Jessica Casner commented…

I agree. The more we live with a lens of love and appreciation for what makes each of us unique and different, the more we are able to understand how God is working through each others' lives. When we dwell on negative energy, our thought patterns produce negative actions. For example, if we're always comparing ourselves to each other rather than Christ's example, we will always be bitter. If we live with the lens that is thankful, and are content with who we are with Christ, I believe living out love becomes a habit.

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