We all have a natural inclination to hate those we see as our enemies. We hate those who hate us. We hate those who hurt us. We hate those who threaten us.
The righteous indignation of anger leads to burning hate — and it feels so justified. We’re the ones who are right. Everyone else is wrong. It seems so simple.
Hate is easy. Love is staggeringly difficult.
Hate is the default reaction for all of us, me included. It feels so good and so right to burn with rage at certain people, even if we claim principles that teach love.
Love isn’t a default reaction. Instead, it’s a difficult choice, especially at first. But as you continue to make that choice, you change. Your heart softens and gets bigger. Eventually, love seems like the only viable choice — even though you know it will remain difficult as your choice is tested again and again.
If you read or watch news — something I strongly advise you to avoid — you’ll soon be filled with reasons to hate people, both individuals and groups. Everybody has a good justification for their hate.
“They hated us first.”
“Those people have been killing us for generations.”
“My group has always been oppressed and hated.”
All of the justifications will be true on some level. History is full of groups hating each other. Humans have murdered and stolen from each other, almost always blaming the victims or — even worse — saying, “God told us to do that.”
But I choose to love, even if others choose to hate. I choose to love, even if that doesn’t make sense to you. I’m not trying to convince you to adopt my point of view. I’m just explaining my choice.
Hate hurts the person who’s full of hatred. Even if you don’t call it hate — even if you dress it up as righteous — it still hurts you more than anyone else. It warps your ability to think and feel. You see other people as sub-humans who don’t quite deserve what you and your allies deserves.
Worse, hate hardens your heart. Even if you feel softness toward your own kind — your own allies or group or friends who have been hurt — your heart hardens from rage that makes it hard to be reasonable or rational. You see everything through the lens of your rage and hate. You will end up justifying things which you would have never justified before — taking that attitude that those who “do that sort of thing” or who are of another religion or ethnic group, for instance, deserve whatever bad things happen to them.
Second, I believe there is a Creator who isn’t finished writing the story of the human race. I’m not interested right here in what we call this Creator. I simply know beyond doubt that I’ve experienced a Spirit — God, Creator, Supreme Being, whatever your term is — who is absolute love. I’m counting on what I have experienced, not anybody else’s interpretation of what they believe God is.
If you claim to follow Jesus — as I do — you have no way to follow Him and yet also hate other people. He wasn’t vague about it. In the Sermon on the Mount — in which He preached very clearly about morality — He told His followers to “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….”
That isn’t vague. It didn’t come with an asterisk saying, “Love people unless they’re gay — or Muslim or black or unless they’ve hurt you.”
I’m terrible at obeying Jesus about this. I’m not the example to follow, because I’ve failed so many times. But I’m not going to try to justify the times I’ve failed or seek to create an exception that justifies hate that might be comfortable for me. I’m just going to keep trying to get better at it — by constantly making better choices.
I believe that the Author of life — the Creator of everything — is going to perfect us at some point. I don’t believe that where we are in history is the end. I believe we’re going to learn to love each other and that everything will be peaceful. I don’t expect that anytime soon, but I expect that to happen by the end of the story.
So because I believe hating others damages myself and because I believe a Creator wants me to love in ways that aren’t natural to me, I choose to love.
I don’t pretend that’s always an easy choice. Sometimes you have to separate yourself from people or from information or from certain influences. If those things trigger hate and rage in you, maybe they’re not good for you. Maybe you’ll see the world differently without those things in your life. Maybe if you see the world in a different way, love will seem like the only reasonable choice to make. Maybe.
I can’t make you see the world as I do. That’s hard for me to accept, because I feel as though I should be able to make you see things my way — and you’d surely agree with me.
But I can’t do that.
I can just tell you this is the choice I’m making for myself. I’m betting that love is going to find the way to win.
Hate is easy. Humans have always done it. Love is difficult, but your choice about whether to experience love or hate changes you and it changes your experience of life.
I choose to love — and I believe that’s what makes life worth living.