“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King
One morning several years ago I decided to write some thoughts in my journal about hate. I was getting a little tired of being subjected to all the “hate” talk in the media. (And this was before social media.) What follows are statements I wrote off the top of my head, brainstorm fashion. Afterwards I will comment on a few of them.
Hate is used as a tool to manipulate masses, unite people.
Hate is used by hate-mongers to move people to action.
Hate makes people feel good, can make them feel alive.
Hate makes people feel bad (for hating, for being so consumed by it.)
Hate damages the hater.
Hate damages the hated.
Hate makes us irrational, difficult to reason with.
Hate will never solve interpersonal or international problems.
Hate is a form of slavery (to which we become chained.)
Hate can be a form of addiction (which makes us feel good about ourselves by deceiving us into thinking we are better than the hated.)
Hate is a serious problem in our world today.
Hate is evil.
Hate breaks things, damages and stains.
The first statement comes straight from Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer. This 1951 analysis of mass movements is filled with powerful insights about how men like Hitler and Stalin manipulated the masses to consolidate power. Hitler specifically used hatred of the Jews to unite the peoples in countries he conquered.
It is a scary thing to see, but it goes on today. NOW (National Organization of Women) united women through hatred of men, the KKK united whites through fear and hatred of blacks, some black groups have united people of color through hatred of whites, and some Conservative right wing groups promote fear and hatred of foreigners and liberals to keep people in their fold. (Would it really have been better dead than Red?) Communist propagandists create hatred between social classes by fostering envy among the disenfranchised.
“Hatred is one of the most effective unifying agents in mass movements,” Hoffer wrote. “It pulls the individual away from his own self, makes him oblivious of his own fortunes and future, and liberates him from his own jealousies and self-seeking.”
Common hatred unites the most disparate elements. “To share a common hatred… is to infect him with a feeling of kinship, and thus sap his powers of resistance. Hitler used anti-Semitism not only to unify his Germans, but also to sap the resoluteness of Jew-hating Poland, Rumania, Hungary, and finally even France. He made similar use of anti-communism.”
The statement that hate can make us feel good may have struck some of you as strange, but Hoffer also commented on this as well. “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new contentment not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them opportunities for both.”
Hatred is a very complex emotion. Yet history has shown that many Christians have yielded to the temptation to take up the flag of hate. Strange as it seems to us today, many Ku Klux Klan members have been church members, and so were many followers of Nazi Socialism.
The line from Barry Maguire’s “Eve of Destruction” comes to mind here. “Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace.”
I feel sad when I hear hatred behind the words of a writer, actor, celebrity or cultural spokesperson. Hate is like violence. It is like a set of billiard balls, one striking another striking another, endlessly. It resolves nothing, changes nothing.
It’s also like drinking poison, as hurtful to the hater as to the hated.
On the other hand, what power there is in mercy, in grace, in forgiveness, in love. Love alone disarms hate. It is the most powerful force in the world, if we would but believe it.
Originally published at ennyman.com.