There’s no disputing that we are born to be loved. Human beings carry an enormous capacity for this precious gift from a limitless God. What is less acknowledged is our active and equally considerable potential for hatred. In fact, it may not actually be possible to have one without the other. Just as darkness makes light all the more vivid, overcoming our baser, visceral instincts is actually what makes love the sweeter.
As distasteful as the subject is, especially to Christians, understanding and conquering hatred is one of the major taskings of our lives. There’s no escaping it. Just being born exposes us to the full, unremitting rage of our arch-enemy, Satan. We innocently inherit entire hordes of demonic entities arrayed against our genetic line. Generational curses abound. It’s common to be detested by other cultural groups simply because of where, or who, you come from.
And then there are the personal enemies we develop on the simple journey of making our way in the world. No matter how benign our intent, inevitably, we screw up. Sincere though we may be, others are injured through our selfishness and ignorance, causing long-lasting offence. Worse yet, there’s no excuse for the nasty back-trail of hubris we leave in our wake; a marvelous argument for the importance of apology and forgiveness.
Who doesn't remember the visceral twist that shocks you when the evil gaze of Satan suddenly shifts upon you through the spiteful actions, calculated malice or deliberate insult of others? We feel it all the way to our toes. Hatred is potent, pervasive and not to be underestimated on any front. If we want to survive, enemies must be defeated, or at the very least, neutralized.
But there’s virtue in out-and-out misanthropes. The psalms are seething with David’s struggles with foes both near and far. His outbursts to God range from absolute terror to the fiercest vitriol all the way to bloodthirsty vengeance. Warts and all are displayed as the shepherd navigates his way through the thorny emotional path to kingship. Some of the most insightful moments, however are found, not amongst his angst over the pursuing Saul, but among the betrayal of friends.
For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords. Psalm 55:12-14, 20-22
Even in the midst of his shattering pain, David’s lyricism poetically, and oh, so accurately, captures the dastardly moment you realize the most dangerous viper is the one in your bosom. In the words of the anonymous cynic, “Lord, protect me from my friends. I can take care of my enemies.” How many times have we experienced the torment of broken confidences, duplicity, gossip, perfidy at critical moments or excruciating treachery? The hidden contempt or rivalry of our nearest and dearest unexpectedly flashing forth can cripple trust for life.
Painful as these experiences may be, it is possible to forgive the bloodiest of enemies or the ficklest of friends. Dealing with the hater within your own heart, however, is the bitterest battle of them all. Our most debilitating foe is the fear and loathing we carry against ourselves. Satan's malevolent voice is very much with us, and it’s so terribly easy to agree with him.
Lately, I’ve become aware of the myriad of ways self-hatred pervades my heart, shapes my attitudes and impairs my judgment. Condemnation, constant demeaning, holding my gifts or calling in contempt because of a lack of mastery or the opinions of others, are all well-worn pathways. We’re just never good enough. Constant self-sabotage is our treacherous companion. Despising our own clumsiness and folly, we're never able to give ourselves the same grace we extend to others. Loving and accepting who you are is truly challenging.
How can this duplicity, this corrupted inner dialog, be healed? I need to see myself through the eyes of my Heavenly Father. The balm is a slow, a steady diet of God’s word, and the sweet fellowship of the faithful. Haters' gonna hate, but in the end, the lovers will prevail.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit Psalm 51:10-12
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