A Crisis of Loneliness Fuels a Crisis of Hate

What causes someone to be the person they become and do the things they do?

As many of you know, I’ve been spending a great deal of time these past few months thinking about the divides that separate us as people. The racial divide. The political divide. The socio-economic divide. The gender divide. The sexual-orientation divide. The religious divide. So many divides…

Too many.

Much of this story can be attributed to the primal tribal nature of human beings. We are more comfortable being with people like ourselves. Tribes give us an identity. They dictate how we think and behave. We no longer need to navigate the vast uncertain gray area that is the world we live in, as we can fit ourselves into a nicely appointed box.

But what happens to the people who don’t fit into the boxes that society makes available?

One of the things that fascinates me is understanding the root cause of a problem. So I dig. I connect dots. I look for commonalities. I’ve been digging a lot around the root of hatred and I found a link I hadn’t considered.

A recent New York Times article highlighted a woman who had once been a white supremacist. She talked at length about, how, when she found herself in a chat room (that she initially didn’t realize it was what it was) how kind people were to her. They made her feel like she belonged. She said she had never had friends before and it felt good.

I realized that this was very similar to what I had read in the past about jihadist recruiting. Youth are being radicalized, one Washington Post article writes, “deploying flattery and attention while pretending to be friends.”

In both cases, the people recruited had felt marginalized. Like they didn’t belong. The bait was simply “seeing” them. They were lonely.

It is possible that the crisis of loneliness is at the root of the crisis of hatred?

When we think of the enormous challenge of bridging the divide, we can often feel helpless. What can we do, as an individual, to create change? But when we seek out the root cause of what might lead someone to become hateful or violent, we find our place in creating a new possibility.

Seek out the lonely. Look for those who hide in the shadows. The people who need a kind word. Really see others and ensure they know they are seen. Let’s ensure nobody falls through the cracks of our societies and feels that their only avenue for belonging is in joining a band of hate.

“…a need for validation, visibility, and purpose. For (some), hate becomes a cure for loneliness.”

Validation and visibility is something that every one of us can give on a daily basis and purpose is something we can all help cultivate.

You have the ability to create a new future through every action you take. You are that powerful.

Let’s not wait until the seeds of hatred have a chance to take root. Let’s get to the root of the problem.

© A Thoughtful Company, LLC, 2020


Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis
An expert on authentic leadership, Kimberly Davis shares her inspirational message of personal power, responsibility, and impact with organizations across the country and teaches leadership programs world-wide; most notably, her program “OnStage Leadership” which runs in NYC and Dallas, TX. Additionally, Kimberly teaches for Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Cox School of Business’s Executive Education Program's Transformational Leadership Program and their Latino Leadership Initiative. She is also privileged to teach for the Bush Institute’s WE Lead Program (empowering female leaders from the Middle East). Kimberly is a TEDx speaker and her book, Brave Leadership: Unleash Your Most Confident, Authentic, and Powerful Self to Get the Results You Need, is the 2019 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Business and Career; an Amazon Bestseller in Business Leadership, Business Motivation, and Self-Improvement, and Motivational Business Management; and was named as the number one book to read in Inc. Magazine’s “The 12 Most Impactful Books to Read in 2018,” with a cover-endorsement by best-selling author Daniel Pink.

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  1. Hi Kimberly, while I agree with this post and it’s sentiment, I must share a warning. Some of the darkest, most hateful people begin relationships with their loneliness, victimization, and troubles on their sleeve. They elicit the empathic and caring to want to help them and care for them. And once they have you hooked, they slowly (or quickly) destroy your life.

    While it’s admirable to seek out the lonely and try to help them feel included, you can’t lose yourself in that process. And most of the time when you’re in a situation like I describe, you don’t realize it until it’s gotten extremely out of hand.

    When it comes to hate groups like you mention, they want the dark, hateful souls I mention. Individuals void of compassion and empathy fit perfectly into their covens.

    Just food for thought. And as I said, I admire this thought process, I’d just like to heed a warning!

    • And your warning is a wise one, JoAnna! It also helps me know that I should have perhaps been a little more clear in my writing (so thank you – it’s all learning!). Nobody is born a hater. Nobody is born a hateful, dark person. That comes with time. That white supremacist that I mention in the piece grew up without any friends at all. That breaks my heart. How to we allow kids to fall through the cracks? It often begins with the labels adults place on them. I remember when my son was in elementary school he was really impulsive. He was quickly getting a reputation for being “that kid.” The principal had us on speed dial. We were in that office more times that we could count, advocating for our son. They’d want to punish him by taking away recess, which would make it worse. They would
      shame him publicly, by sitting him off all by himself. After a few years the school district agreed to do some testing and they discovered that his IQ was off the charts. The kid was bored! They immediately changed their entire approach. Now, instead of dealing with him like “the bad kid” he was lauded as “the smart kid.” He was given opportunities to lead and mentor other kids. He got to take on special projects when he completed the normal school work. But had he not had parents who advocated for him, he would have been that kid that fell through the cracks. Who started hanging out with the other “bad kids.” Who could have become “hateful and dark.” Underneath all of the ugly behaviors is somebody’s kid that didn’t get seen and loved. Yes, once they’re adults they are responsible for their behaviors and there is no excuse. But we need to see the hurt person under the hurtfulness for anything to change.

  2. Kimberly, the challenge you pose is as daunting as it is necessary. When I think of children drawn into gangs, drawn into lives of crime and violence, drawn into hatred for lack of role models, father figures, validation, visibility, and purpose, it’s paralyzing. But forcing ourselves to move, to act, to connect is the only way out.

    Thank you for the reminder.