“Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Love
Is love more powerful than hate?
Love is a powerful force in the universe. That much is true. What’s unclear is just how powerful love is and whether it can and should be used as a tool to combat hate. Some say hate must be met with more of the same and that confrontation is the onlly reliable strategy to change human behavior for the better. Others take the kinder, softer approach and let love do the job.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts for a conversation about love using the Teach Different 3-Step conversation method.
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Image source: Library of Congress
Dan Fouts 00:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here from Teach Different. We’re veteran teachers from the United States bringing educators together from around the world to learn a simple conversation method, which we model on this podcast for you. If you’re a teacher, administrator, or parent who wants to use the power of conversations to build stronger relationships and fight polarization, stay tuned to hear the impact our method can have on your discussions. Then join our Community of Educators at teachdifferent.com for additional resources and to participate in lively conversations among teachers and faculty, free for 30 days.
Dan Fouts 00:31
Hello everybody. Welcome to the Teach Different podcast. This week, we have a great quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the theme of love. Since we recently had the Martin Luther King holiday, this is a perfect time to bring in a quote from him. He has so many amazing ones. He was the leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and a very special leader in American society, really worldwide.
Dan Fouts 01:01
Let’s review our 3-step conversation method. We’ll start with his quote on love, then talk about the claim of the quote, our interpretation of what it means in our own language. As listeners, this is where you want to think about your audience. If you’re an elementary, middle, or high school teacher using this quote, imagine what your students would say, and how they would interpret it. Then, we’ll move to the counterclaim, which pushes against the claim, and gets our critical thinking skills going. We’ll end with an essential question that you can use with your students. As we’ve said many times in our podcasts, some of your best essential questions will come from your students as part of the organic conversation. Let’s begin with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s quote on the theme of love. “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Steve, what’s your take on the claim?
Steve Fouts 02:09 – Claim
I think he’s saying that revenge is counterproductive. If someone is threatening you, or you’re dealing with negativity, a natural feeling is to give that back to them, because you didn’t deserve it. It’s difficult to tolerate that kind of stuff. MLK is saying that if you give the hate back, it’s never going to go away. The hate that you’re getting will continue to come back to you. You’re always going to have to deal with it, if you respond with the same thing.
Dan Fouts 02:57
I like that. It’s an eye for an eye. I see the revenge angle on this. The tendency to respond in the same way that your attacker, so to speak, is responding. MLK is very clear that hate cannot drive out hate. If you want to get rid of hate, you have to use a different approach. This is tough for young people, and for adults. You have to take a step back, think, reflect and try to respond in a way that is going to throw them off base and resolve the conflict. With hate, you can’t respond back with hate, because it’s going to make it worse. The second part of the quote, only love can do that, is the opposite of hate. So he’s saying you have to approach hate from a unique angle that might surprise the other person.
Steve Fouts 04:11
Yeah. He thinks love is the way to get rid of hate. That’s his insight here. You said that love is the opposite of hate, and I think a lot of people would agree with you. I heard someone say once, that the opposite of love isn’t hate. Its indifference. Hate and love are actually closer than you think, but maybe that’s another conversation. Let me add to his claim. He’s really saying that love is what can get rid of hate. That’s his claim. I don’t think that’s always true. I think this is a very revolutionary comment, although it sounds kind of nice and innocent, and maybe even naive on some level. I think what he’s saying is really important.
Dan Fouts 05:23
Let’s go to the classroom. If you’re with students, and you’ve put this quote up, your student will likely respond with personal experiences of when they chose love over hate. Younger kids might not use the term love. You might ask, when someone has not liked you, have you ever responded by liking them or being nice to them? Have you taken the opposite approach? How did that work out? What did you do when that happened? Did you feel more powerful when you did that? Did you feel weakened? Did you feel like it was successful or not?
Steve Fouts 06:14
Kill them with kindness. I don’t know who said that quote, but that’s what this is aligned to. MLK talked about love being a weapon in other speeches. It’s interesting to think of it that way. When you’re hating someone, because they hate you, then you’re really fighting a battle with them. But if you want to win the war, one way is to give something they don’t expect. Maybe they will think that they’ve targeted the wrong person, because you’re not reacting the way they wanted you to. That could be a really good tactic to use. Honestly, my high school students in Chicago would say, “haters are gonna hate.” It doesn’t matter how you react to them, because they’re just going to hate. They would struggle with this quote.
Dan Fouts 07:42
Are you saying that love would not have the intended effect, that it wouldn’t be useful? Are you saying that they would say neither would be successful in driving out hate?
Steve Fouts 07:54
Yes. I would say indifference would be something they would claim. Can you win if you don’t let people bother you? That’s how you win. You don’t try to love on them. They don’t deserve that and you don’t have the energy for that. If students don’t want to step up to share an experience and you don’t have something ready, then have them do a thought experiment. Ask students to set up a situation where they think it would work to respond to someone’s hatred with love. Would it conquer all?
Dan Fouts 09:09
Sometimes that’s a safe way to participate. Instead of student’s talking about their own life, they can bring up a fictitious example that gets to the point. Teachers could share a personal experience. Teachers often deal with negative reactions from students. Students might be interested to know how important it is for teachers to respond to hate and anger with love and kindness. That’s our job. It’s tough to do, but it’s also incredibly successful when you do it in a classroom to manage emotions.
Steve Fouts 10:11
It can work. I’m thinking of my own life and how I try to be positive to people. In fact, I’m probably too non confrontational. It doesn’t have to go to hate, but love is powerful. It can move mountains and repair relationships. Sometimes when you’re trying to love somebody who is not treating you well, it doesn’t work. I’m slowly getting into the counterclaim.
Dan Fouts 11:05
I think you’re defining love in a different way than I am. I’m thinking of love as positive attention or kindness. In the context of a classroom, it would be paying attention to a student, listening to a student, showing that you care about them. Maybe love is a little bit too strong of a word. I think the word love is going to be unpacked by students, and they’re going to be all over the map with that word.
Steve Fouts 11:39
You have to circle that one and get some opinions on what kids think that means. MLK is using it in a context that’s different from how we’re using it in a classroom. Let’s get to the counterclaim. We’re kind of flirting with it. How would you say the counterclaim?
Dan Fouts 12:14 – Counterclaim
“Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” If someone is hating on you, sometimes confronting them with the very same medicine is exactly how to get them to stop and respect you.
Steve Fouts 12:38
Do you think they’re going to stop hating when they get confronted? The bully is going to stop hating?
Dan Fouts 12:45
There are some people, who when met with resistance and see somebody stand up for themselves, will transform their hate into respect. Love would not have worked.
Steve Fouts 13:03
You drove out hate when you confronted someone. You got them to realize that they better go find another victim, because you’re going to be all kinds of trouble for them. I get that. I’m going to suggest another tack to that. I’m going to say that indifference drives out hate. I’m not talking about love. I’m thinking one way to deal with someone hating me is to just ignore it.
Dan Fouts 13:49
That’s definitely another way.
Steve Fouts 13:51
It could aggravate them, and then they’re going to start pushing your buttons. They’re probably still going to come after you, if they wanted you in the first place, and they really hate you. That approach probably won’t work with some folks. I think indifference is another perspective to the counterclaim.
Dan Fouts 14:13
To be indifferent means you want to avoid conflict and not respond to people. If you don’t respond to people who are hating you, you’re not giving them the reaction that they probably want. That’s the power they have over you. If you ignore them, then they don’t have any power over you. That’s a way to drive out hate, because they have nothing to gain by interacting with you.
Steve Fouts 14:53
That’s not going to always work. You have to take the love route or the hate route to get rid of the hate. One thing we haven’t talked about, yet, is what does MLK mean by getting rid of hate? Is he talking about making someone not want to hate you anymore, or about their inability to hate you? Is that the same thing?
Dan Fouts 15:37
Maybe it’s the same thing.
Steve Fouts 15:41
I think it is. This has to be a motivation we’re dealing with.
Dan Fouts 15:45
Feeling and motivation.
Steve Fouts 15:50
Hate is tied to someone’s feelings.
Dan Fouts 15:54
I know we’re on the counterclaim, but I’m going to flip back to the claim. “Only love can drive out hate.” Essentially, what he’s saying is that if you remove the hate, then you have to fill it up with something else, like love. That’s important. It might as well be love and not hate. I’m thinking of asking kids, when they’ve confronted somebody who’s hated them, and they didn’t respond with kindness or love, how did that work out? What did you do? So many people will be talking about those kinds of experiences. You’ll learn a lot about how your students deal with conflict. It might surprise you to discover that the quiet kids have some pretty severe conflicts going on in their life. That would come out in this conversation when they share personal stories.
Steve Fouts 17:04
If they want to share them. I would love to ask an unruly student, or someone who’s a little bit harder to control, if they’ve ever been nice to someone who really hated them. Find that confrontational student, put them on the spot, and ask them if they have ever used that tactic. They probably love talking.
Dan Fouts 17:57
It’s priceless for other students to hear those stories. They’re learning how to interact with each other and how each of them responds in different situations. This is a common theme with all of these conversations. You get to learn about your students on a level that is so profound and deep. If you’re able to have these conversations, you see another dimension to their thinking.
Steve Fouts 18:27
That’s what it’s all about. That’s what our role is as the facilitator. I just thought of a homework assignment. Act nice to the next person who hates you. Show them a little bit of love, then tell the class what happened. That’s your homework. We’ll give you a week.
Dan Fouts 18:50
This would be a wonderful quote to use before teaching the civil rights movement, or wherever there’s conflict between love and hate. This is where teachers’ creativity will be ignited. What a wonderful conversation to have before or after your favorite curriculum that surrounds this theme.
Dan Fouts 19:19
Steve Fouts 19:19
I love Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..
Dan Fouts 19:21
He is fantastic.
Steve Fouts 19:23
We have to get some more quotes from him.
Dan Fouts 19:26
Dan Fouts 19:28 – Essential Question
Here’s an essential question that we came up with, is love more powerful than hate? It’d be really interesting to see what the kids say about that.
Steve Fouts 19:49
Dan Fouts 19:51
All right. Well, thank you everybody. We appreciate you listening to the Teach Different podcast. We’ll be back next week with a thought provoking quote, a great conversation, and an essential question. Good luck with your conversations, and we’ll see you soon.
Steve Fouts 20:07
See ya everybody.
Dan Fouts 20:09
Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized by some great ideas, and have a sense of confidence that you too can master the art and science of conversations to make a lasting impact. We at Teach Different are dedicated to supporting you along that journey. Please visit teachdifferent.com to join our Community of Educators for additional resources and engaging discussion among fellow teachers and administrators, free for 30 days. We’ll see you there and next time on the Teach Different Podcast, take care!