Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Have you ever been in a situation when you feel hatred towards another person? It’s a very personal question, I know, but today I’d like to have a look at this topic. It’s something that we don’t talk about but some people have—like Richard Nixon, one-time President of the United States, who once said, “Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself”.
Maybe he was talking from his own experience—I don’t know—but it’s true. If you hate others, you will eventually destroy yourself. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Hate and force cannot be in just a part of the world without having an effect on the rest of it”. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness”. Abraham Lincoln said he used to destroy his enemies by loving them. What a great idea.
I read the story of a 14-year-old boy who was convicted for shooting and killing an innocent teenager in a gang-related incident. The teenager’s mother attended the trial and she sat quietly until the verdict of guilty was announced and he was sentenced to a juvenile facility for a number of years. She looked at him and said, “I’m going to kill you”. A few months later she went to visit the young lad in prison and gave him money for cigarettes, and brought him food and small gifts. She kept on visiting him.
After three years he was eligible for parole but he had nowhere to live. She invited him to her home and helped him get a job and after a few months spoke these words:
I didn’t want you to live because you killed my son. I wanted to change you—and my boy has gone. The killer has gone as well. If you’ll stay with me, I’ve got room and I’d like to adopt you if you’ll let me.
And this remarkable woman became the mother of her son’s killer. She became the mother he never had. That true story is found in a book called The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace by Jack Kornfield.
Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs” (NIV). Hatred and love are contrasted with each other. The Hebrew word for ‘hatred’ here simply refers to strong dislike for another person. Strong dislike for people stirs up arguments. The more we dislike a person, the more often we’ll tend to have conflict with that person. We often call these personality conflicts, but underneath we have strong dislike.
In Luke 6:27, Jesus says, “…do good to those who hate you”. When Jesus calls us to love those who hate us, he’s calling for us to do something that’s totally contrary to our human nature. Human nature tells us to get revenge! Human nature tells us when someone messes with us we need to smack them. This logic says that if we get back at them they’ll know not to mess with us anymore. Plus we think that revenge is sweet; that it’s going to make us feel better.
Hate impacts us physically and spiritually
But guess what: Hatred is a horrible strategy that can miserably backfire. It is well-known today that hatred can destroy us physically. Scientific studies have shown the damage hatred does. Anger causes your blood pressure and breathing rate to increase, which causes a strain on your heart making you more susceptible to heart attacks and stroke. It also can trigger headaches and lead to abusive behaviour. It can break down your immune system and cause you to be susceptible to various diseases.
Not only that, hatred can destroy us emotionally. It wears you out and makes your judgment less effective, leading to bad decision-making. Often times the result of hatred is outbursts that can cause us to be embarrassed. This can lead to feelings of guilt and depression. Another side effect of always being angry and having intense hatred is not many people will enjoy being around you. You become less attractive to others, further isolating yourself.
Of course, hatred also destroys us spiritually. We’re told throughout the Bible that the essence of God is love. And if we are harbouring hatred in our hearts then we’re living contrary to God’s command to love one another. The result of that is a disconnect from God.
Psalm 66:18 says, “If I have sin in my heart, God will not hear me.” Have you ever noticed when you’re angry at someone it becomes the focus of your life? It doesn’t matter what’s going on around you, your thoughts and focus are totally upon the person who’s wronged you and you become trapped in that hatred to the point where it’s hard to function properly as a person and as a follower of God. Thus, your relationship with God becomes distant.
Breaking the cycle of hate
So how do we get out of this cycle? Jesus said it’s by doing good to those who hate you. One thing we all have control over is how we’re going to respond. And if you make the choice to respond to those who hate you, to those who are angry at you, by doing good to them, you’re going to diffuse a tense situation. For one, it will totally confuse the one who hates you because they’re expecting you to respond in anger. It will also diffuse some of the anger they have toward you.
It’s really hard for someone to continue to hate you when you do them good. Kindness and love can change people. In practice, here’s what this would mean for us:
- mowing the lawn of a hateful neighbour
- volunteering to fill in for the mean-spirited co-worker who drives you nuts
- being helpful and kind to an ex-spouse
- providing for a parent who was cruel to you as you were growing up.
And if you do these things you’ll be surprised by the freedom you feel by not being tied down to the anger you have towards those who’ve been mean to you. You may even be surprised by the impact you have on the life of your enemy.
(To be continued in Dealing with Hate – Part 2)