First things first. Regular readers of my blog know my hubby Bill and I spent some time in Spain earlier this fall. When we returned home, we did the laundry, tried our best to adjust to the six-hour time difference, then three days later, we packed for another nine-day trip, a beach vacation with eight of our closest friends in South Carolina.
Let me just say this – I have now learned that writing is a discipline, just like running. When you don’t do it for a while, it becomes easier to keep on not doing it.
I procrastinated writing this post because I was unsure how to begin. Writing after an extended absence feels a little bit shaky, but I have learned that just showing up, in this case at my laptop, is the most difficult part, so here goes.
By Nicholas A. Tonelli from Northeast Pennsylvania, USA – https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/3594274494/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6951488
Bill and I went to running club this week, but only I ran. The day before we completed our final long run before the Marine Corps Marathon, a 20-miler. During this long run, Bill developed blisters on the bottoms of his feet, so his taper will be a complete respite from running in the hopes that his poor feet will heal in time for the race.
Our run this week was along the Enola Low-Grade Rail Trail, a very flat, packed cinder path with gorgeous views of the Susquehanna River. I wound up running by myself, racing the approaching sunset.
Overhead first one, then two bald eagles screeched. I could hear rustling in the woods surrounding the trail where chipmunks scurried and squirrels twitched their tails on the trunks of giant oak trees in their classic “threat” posture. My mind began to wander.
I thought first about the Bible. I am certainly not a Biblical scholar and I have no problem admitting that there are many passages which I don’t understand. Some I even find troubling. There is one short phrase, however, to which I return over and over for its truth, simplicity, and hope: “God is love”.
“God is love” is what I consider when another driver cuts me off in traffic. “God is love” when a friend fails to respond to a text or phone call. “God is love” when a customer service person is rude.
“If God is love,” I thought, “what is hate?”
It’s something worthwhile to consider; there is plenty of hate to go around these days. Hate exists between people of opposing political persuasions, dissimilar religions, different skin colors.
At times, it almost seems as though people are proud of their hate, as though hate is something to be waved around, venerated, and bragged about.
In order for hate to exist, I believe two factors must be present.
The first is fear. This is not an original concept. Thinkers as disparate as Gandhi (“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is really fear.” – Mahatma Gandhi) and The Bard (“In time we hate that which we often fear.” – William Shakespeare) have expressed similar views.
In brain scans, both hate and fear seem to originate from the same region as the one in which evaluating another person and predicting their behavior is done. Both are necessary human adaptations. Yes, fear and judging other people have helped us to survive for millennia, but they also have some negative byproducts, such as loathing.
The second factor, other than fear, needed for hate to exist is a lack of self-acceptance. Most hate begins as a kernel of disgust at our core, disgust directed at one’s self.
The attributes which we find most repulsive in others are the very ones we are most afraid to discover in ourselves. How much easier it is then, to despise and judge others than to think of ourselves as “bad“?
Hate is clever. It knows it is unattractive. We don’t like to put hate on display in its unadulterated form. We sometimes disguise hate as self-righteousness, as though somehow the object of our contempt deserves antipathy.
For those of us who believe “God is love” as I do, what can be done? We need to turn the tide, to not allow hate to become commonplace or acceptable.
We must look for signs of vulnerability towards incipient hate in ourselves.
Do you feel sanctimonious when comparing your religious principles or depth of knowledge to others’? Don’t.
When acquaintances make disparaging remarks directed at people from another race or cultural background, either explicitly or implicitly, are you enticed to contribute a similar pronouncement of your own? Hold out.
Are you tempted to leave a snarky comment in response to a friend’s political post you disagree with? Resist temptation. (This one might be hardest for me.)
If each of us does our utmost to make hatred stop with us, we can halt the escalation of evil. We all have a part to play.
Love demands no less.
Yes, love. Even for the guy in the red Toyota I was following who refused to pull up into the intersection to turn left through three light changes while I waited.
I didn’t say it would be easy.
I am linking with Random-osity for Little Things Thursdays, Crystal Storms for Heart Encouragement, Lyli Dunbar for Faith on Fire, Fairytales and Fitness for Friday 5, Morgan’s Milieu for Post, Comment, Love, Esme Salon for Senior Salon, and Knit by God’s Hand for Thankful Thursdays.