I’m not certain when the word hate was introduced into my vocabulary. I attended Sunday School for as long as I can remember and, certainly, some teacher along the way must have told me not to use that word. But I don’t remember being admonished for it. It was bandied about our house religiously with siblings yelling “I hate you” to each other and our parents. I can remember my mother using it. And I can remember using it in reference to kids at school although, for the life of me, I can’t remember why. “I hate this or that or him or her” was just part of normal everyday language.
When I got to college I served as editor of the school paper. We wrote stories about issues on campus – stories with depth not ordinarily found in college papers of the time. Most of those came about just because we would ask some questions about building projects or administrative issues and we were not given answers to our satisfaction. We felt like we were just getting pats on the head and were not taken seriously. So rather than just let our questions drop, we put them in print. There was considerable uproar on campus when I was the newspaper editor.
It wasn’t until after I was finished being editor and had returned home (several states away) during a semester break that I got feedback about my work from an unexpected source. My dad told me that one of his associates (and I’m thinking it was a customer of his insurance business) had told him that his daughter was attending the same university as I. Commenting on my leadership of the paper, my dad looked me in the eye and said, “She hates you.”
I was taken completely off guard. I didn’t know this girl. We had never met. I wondered why our parents, knowing we were attending the same school, never mentioned that fact to me. But whatever venom she was feeling toward me was probably intensified by my dad’s constant concern that he might lose a customer over my outspoken behavior. Dad and I had previously discussed the need for me to tone down my opinions and never, ever write a letter to the editor because it might affect his business, his income, his ability to support the family. Whatever “hate” this girl felt toward me was without doubt amplified by my dad’s own hate of my controversial conduct – even if I happened to be living 400 miles away and even if my work as editor of the school paper required that I ask questions that could make people uncomfortable or bring forth answers that were distressing to some.
“She hates you” has echoed in my ears ever since. I could not fathom anyone hating me without even meeting me. And then I considered all the times I had used that word myself ever since I was a young child and how that word was a staple in our household. I had an epiphany at that moment that hate was as much a 4-letter word as any of the foulest of the foul words I had been taught not to say. In fact, it was worse.
It had to be used against me in this way – by a complete stranger – to wake me up to its hurtful, powerful effects. I have seldom used the word since in any situation. When I catch myself on the verge of using it or even letting it slip out of my mouth, I immediately change it to something less emphatic and feel mildly sick to my stomach that I had let it creep into my thoughts.
The past couple of weeks have been momentous in the lives of many in this country. From the shootings in the Black church in South Carolina to the Supreme Court decisions (especially on the issues of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare and gay marriage), there have been celebrations, frustrations, and grief. All of it has seemed to be acted out on the Internet.
My observation about it all is that there is so much venom, so much hate and from almost any angle of an issue one might imagine that I would have shied away completely from reading any of it except that social media has become an important tool for me to stay in touch with friends around the country and the world. The growing incivility in this country which I’ve observed especially since the ‘90s has become a way of life rather than an occasional outburst. Verbally expressing hateful thoughts about people we don’t even know is an accepted norm.
If there’s one thing I find more disgusting (I wanted to use the word hateful) than intolerance, it’s gloating over a victory.
Absolutely we should celebrate victory when issues or people we hold dear are upheld and encouraged.
But to exult our own victory through hateful denunciations of those on the conquered side of the battlefield diminishes not only our triumph but ourselves. And it further divides a country so deeply divided.
When the white gunman killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, it was a “hate” crime. I wouldn’t change that word in that instance. It’s true. It was pure hatred and it was aimed at a group of people this young man didn’t even know, a group of people who welcomed him into their midst to study the scriptures together. He opened fire on them because of their color. It was ignorance. It was hateful.
It would seem to signal a defeat not only for the African Americans in that church but yet another defeat for Blacks throughout the country. And it was a defeat for all Americans who see not black and white in one another’s faces, but only fellow human beings.
Yet the irony is that while there is still unexplained hatred in this country for people who are different than ourselves, the surviving members and families of those nine people who died that day were able to declare victory without even asserting victory. One by one they were able to face the confessed killer and tell him, even as they grieved their losses, not only what he had taken from them but that they had already forgiven him.
Those who were the gunman’s aim for defeat came out the victors. Hate, in this particular instance, was defeated by love and forgiveness.
We need to have a lot more of that kind of victory in this country. Whether we are experiencing victory or defeat, how we address one another, especially as complete strangers, determines who the victors really are.
We must be careful how we declare victory for in it we may only find defeat. Yet in our defeat we can find victory. We just have to do away with hate.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:2-3,9-21Share here: