In Response to Matt Walsh: Don’t Hate the Haters

Dear Matt,

I occasionally enjoy your blog. I think you’re a good writer, and that you’re sometimes funny. I don’t agree with most of your opinions, but, despite this blog post, I don’t totally disagree with everything you said yesterday in your letter to Haters. I also know that blog posts need to be short and sweet, which means you can’t address EVERY relevant topic when you write.

Now that all the disclaimers are out of the way, I need to say what’s on my mind: your post yesterday ignored way too many of the factors that “Haters” face, and increased the odds that their need to hate will only grow.

Mrs. Kang made clear in her sort-of-kind-of apology that she herself has faced many obstacles in being fit, and so her “What’s Your Excuse?” tagline isn’t coming from a place of inherent perfection. But this isn’t about Mrs. Kang. What it’s really about is women who starve themselves, cut themselves, and even kill themselves, all because they can’t stand to be in their own skin. It’s about a society that equates fitness and beauty with importance and power. It’s about all the men who will shove the photo of Ms. Kang into their wives faces, and say, either half-jokingly or entirely hatefully, “why can’t you look like that?”

You write:

You only carry on like this because you’ve given up on yourselves. You’re running around knocking down sandcastles because you think you aren’t capable of building your own. But you can, my friends. You’re exploding with potential. It would leak out of your pores if only you’d uncross your arms and break a sweat. You can be great at something, I know it. Leave your Hating ways behind and take a step or two down the path to success. It won’t be easy, but the best parts of life are never the easiest parts.

No.

Many women “carry on” with hateful comments not because they have “given up,” or “aren’t capable.” It’s because they cringe when they look in the mirror. Because they aren’t comfortable having sex with their husbands unless the lights are off. Because no matter what they do, even if they look like Mrs. Kang, they live in a society that tells them they are failures as women unless they have it all—perfect bodies, perfect kids, perfect home, and perfect career.

So you’re right to say they are “Haters”—they hate themselves. You somewhat address this in your attempts to “inspire,” but you go about it all the wrong way. Instead of “you can be great at something,” how about “you ARE great at something. Even when you’re on the couch in your PJs watching TV and eating ice cream, you are great. And loved. And were created for a purpose that may not include ‘kicking ass and taking names.'”

I appreciate your attempts at inspiration and motivation. It’s fantastic you want us all to be happy and successful. But I ask you to remember that a whole lot of people read your words. So as tough as it may be to keep posts to the 1000 or so words that will hold a reader’s attention, it may just be worth the extra characters to acknowledge the pressure women are under to be perfect, as well as the fact that they are already successful, just how they are.

maria-kang1

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7 thoughts on “In Response to Matt Walsh: Don’t Hate the Haters

  1. Really, really happy you wrote about this. A few lines that particularly stood out to me: “What it’s really about is women who starve themselves, cut themselves, and even kill themselves, all because they can’t stand to be in their own skin. It’s about a society that equates fitness and beauty with importance and power. It’s about all the men who will shove the photo of Ms. Kang into their wives faces, and say, either half-jokingly or entirely hatefully, “why can’t you look like that?”

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  2. Well put, Jamie. As if physical fitness were a sign of true success – sheesh! Do I exercise? Yes. Am I as fit as I’d like? No. But none of this is a mark of my worth and the only way I could con myself into thinking that it is would be to compare myself against others who might be less fit. The problem there, of course, is that I’d also have to ignore all those people who are in better physical condition.

    It’s not just limited to my physicality either. This type of toxic comparison permeates all of life – as you say, “perfect bodies, perfect kids, perfect home, and perfect career” – and none of us really measure up. That’s why the gospel is such good news. Jesus is the only One who is of true worth, and he gives his worth to us based on what he’s done. I’m so glad I don’t have to rely on my own efforts.

    Thanks for helping me think through these things today, Jamie.

    Tim

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  3. Our beauty is not in our body and I wish more people would stand up and own that. Not that we don’t care for our bodies, but the major shame and hang-ups with have over them is absurd.

    And the reality is that some of us just struggle in ways that others don’t. My husband starts going to the gym and within a couple of weeks, you can see a difference. But if i point out that he’s gotten unusually good results he gets very defensive and wants to talk about all his challenges without every acknowledging that he is, in fact, getting better results than most people can expect.

    On multiple occassions, I took up working out at least an hour five times a week for 4 months and didn’t lose an inch or pound the whole time. I’m sure I was doing something wrong but it’s incredibly frustrating and discouraging. To then have someone say, “I have this amazing body working out 30-60 minutes a day” is like a slap in the face. I personally roll my eyes and keep going. But I can see where a lot of people slap back.

    None of us lives in another person’s skin. I am so sick of people thinking that their problems are everyone’s problems therefor the way they overcame them will work for everyone. No, no, no. It just doesn’t work that way! Be proud of what you are able to accomplish, but don’t set it up in contrast to other people’s failures. And certainly don’t go trying to read other people’s minds so you can tell them what their problems are!

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  4. Mirrors are part of the problem. We learn early in life to use them to judge ourselves by a socialized materialistic and commercialized standard of values. There are (or were) no mirrors in convents. Mirrors were almost entirely removed from my life after I married and the first money that came to me I spent some of that pittance on . . . yes, a mirror; one so small it was almost useless. I began to see how false my values were about my physical appearance that my husband loved but that I felt very uncertain about. About my clothing that all had been bought in a different culture for a different lifestyle. About the appearance of my house and its furnishings or lack thereof compared with the traditional culture of extreme poverty (the Arkansas Ozarks) that was the focus of our research. I knew few intellectual people, including most of my Christian friends, who questioned those materialistic values: they had become part and parcel of “respectability.” I deeply distrusted Christians or other religious people who sought profound detachment from physical and material attributes to their lifestyle, yet I found their forms of abstinence helpful for accepting the radical changes in my life. Utter loss is one route to working one’s way back to a sense of gratitude that is essential to self-love; and having someone with you who loves unconditionally eases the learning.

    Self-harm is in a different category of behavior and is a pathology of self-control rather than a failure of values. However, inadequate teaching of self-worth can overlap in those situations where the “hater” is physiologically incapable of forming a strong left-brained self-concept. which can exacerbate bipolar cutting and other forms of self-harm.

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    • I have a relative with CFS who does what I would call focused listening piratically every day — more than an hour of classical music listening to the exclusion of everything else. I spoke with him about your book, and he wondered why he doesn’t seem to gain much benefit other than relaxation. Do you think headphones are necessary? Also, I suppose he might feel worse without doing the listening. That we don’t know, because his habit of late night music is a long one, I think.

      Not that I have just addressed your comment. Yes, appearance, material worth…. all of these are things I tend to struggle with. My husband and I were recently talking about New Monatacism — is that for us? we asked. My very fast answer: “NO.” Having lived in forced poverty (some of which was in the Ozarks, btw), I cannot imagine living in chosen poverty. Yet I know that I am “wrong” (in quotes for what I hope are obvious reasons) to feel that way.

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      • Disclaimers, as they appear on my blog and in my books, apply. Before starting a self-help program, a person should read Listening for the Light and/or my other publications. I can only touch on some of the issues your questions raise here.

        About your relative with CFS, I would have to know a great deal more about the person’s symptoms, possible underlying factors, etc. to venture an opinion. Some people suffer from irreversible ear damage and that usually can be determined by an otolaryngologist or expert audiologist. If you want to explore those factors for this person, let’s do it by email. I ALWAYS caution people not to overdo the use of headphones. Maximum use: two hours per day and only for two or three weeks before taking a break and assessing the overall situation. Earbuds are dangerous. Differences between the left and right ear are significant as well; those differences usually can be sorted out through learning about the person’s lateralization and the syndromes of behavior the person experiences. Sometimes one has to address one or the other or both ears. For example, if depression is a major symptom the left ear likely (not certainly) is the chief problem. For dyslexia, autism, bipolarity, and schizophrenia both ears are involved but the critical problem is in the right ear. The left can be brought into “tune” after strong left-cerebral dominance has been established by strengthening the right ear.

        The last half hour of listening in a Tomatis program (two hours of listening) is Gregorian chant, which has a “balancing” form of stimulation after the intense “work out” from the high-frequency sounds of violins. (Chant is a fascinating and complex form of self-stimulation as well as the effects it has on the listener.) A very small muscle — about one-eighth of an inch long — is the part of the ear to which the stimulation is being “directed.” It is possible to exhaust that tiny muscle with too much sound, reversing the effect of the “focused listening” exercise. People tend to “measure” listening against the standards we use for obtaining pleasure from musical sound without using headphones. That is not what “focused listening” is about. In fact, the stimulation need not be pleasurable at all. My experience of filtered music (the Tomatis Method) was that the sound was irritating and unmusical. A smoke alarm or a shrieking machine with faulty bearings can have the same salutary effect on the stapedius muscle, although I certainly do NOT recommend those stimuli as strategies for healing. Perhaps you noticed in Listening for the Light that Dan deliberately halted or reversed his healing process by listening to music with the volume turned up to damaging levels and by seeking the pounding, low-frequency sounds of punk rock. When a person has become accustomed to a pathological state of consciousness, his or her “instinct” is to maintain that state — the person does not know what “normal” feels like and sails right past that point on the way to negating the positive effects of listening. I know of a schizophrenic who so over-used music that a healing several years ago was assiduously eroded. Someone with a clear sense of “the range of normal” is needed to monitor the disabled person so that s/he stops exercising the ear(s) at the appropriate time.

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