Woody Allen once proposed a set of courses for a university curriculum. Among others, he proposed these: An Introduction to Hostility; Intermediate Hostility; Advanced Hatred and Theoretical Foundations of Loathing. The common understanding is that hatred is the opposite of love; that it is always bad. Christians and mature persons don’t hate! That is a very unfortunate and potentially dangerous misunderstanding. Indifference, not hatred, is the opposite of love. You can only hate someone you love and the deeper the love, the deeper the hatred.
Hatred is not the opposite of love, it is merely frustrated love, grieving love, wounded love, longing love, unrequited love, hopeless love, raped love; in a word, imperfect love. As such it is not necessarily a bad thing, something that a good Christian or a mature person never does. Hatred is to unrequited love what grief is to death or separation. For this reason it is a vital and necessary emotion within us. As Christians we are taught that we must never hate. This, I submit, is too simple. More and more we are becoming sensitive to the importance of grieving when we lose a loved one through death. If, upon the death of a loved one, we bury our anger, rage, disappointment and depression, we end up wounding ourselves at a much deeper level. Hurt calls for tears and anger. Suppressing our feelings is like putting our garbage into the basement and closing the door. It is out of sight and out of mind for a while, but it soon seeps through the vents and permeates the entire house.
When we suffer loss we must rage and anger and cry, otherwise our suppressed grief will seep in through the vents and pollute our entire emotional and psychological atmosphere. I believe that the old Irish-type wake, with all its weeping, boozing and lamenting, was infinitely more therapeutic and healthy than is the sterile, passionless, plastic and inhuman wake of today which denies death and feeling. After a death we must rage and grieve. For a time. But we are incredibly resilient beings and, after a time, we must let go and move out with new hope and new resources to create new life. Life is for loving, but you cannot always live without deep griefs. Likewise we cannot always live with hating. When, in friendship and love, we lose a person (not through physical death, but through an emotional and psychological death) we need, I submit, to hate; to hate with the strength and depth of our love for the person we have lost.
Hatred is love’s grief! This is neither bad nor unhealthy unless it becomes aggressive or unfair or is prolonged for too long a time. Like grief, hatred is necessary for a while. But, like grief too, there comes a moment when it is time to say: “That’s enough!” There comes a time when one must let go, rebuild. There comes a time when nothing further is to be gained psychologically, emotionally and spiritually by grieving. Then, like King David upon the death of his illegitimate son, we must say: “While the child was still alive I prayed and fasted, hoping that God might save him. Now he is dead! Nothing further is to be gained. It is time to begin to live again.” Then, like David, who went immediately and bathed, anointed his head with oil, ate a meal and slept with his wife who then conceived Solomon, we too must move out to create new life, beyond our hurt. The new life will turn the hatred back into its proper perspective, warm love. Keep passing the open windows! Love has many faces, some warm and some cold. At times it writes poems like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
At other times it writes: “How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways… I hate thee freely… I hate thee purely… I hate thee with passion put to use… I hate thee with a love I seemed to lose.” It is no accident that so many persons involved in liberation movements go through periods of intense hatred. Women hate men, poor hate rich. When love is not possible, hatred steps into the breech. This is far from ideal, but it beats the alternative, resignation, hopelessness and indifference. We are pilgrims, exiles, living in Christ’s unconsummated body, a long ways from home. Scandalous as this may sound, we need to hate at times, providing that we realize always that, in the end, we are loving and we will love. The final sin against the Holy Spirit, against love, is never hatred, nor even the despair of the overtired and the wounded… but indifference, the subtle unforgivable despair of the strong, the lie of self-sufficiency.