Hatred Enslaves

When you hate something, you are enslaved by your hatred; and your hatred is a form of idolatry, because it assumes inordinate power in your psychic economy (idolatry is generally manifest in practice as undue attention to something or other – to unjust or disproportionate intentions). Hatred can warp and tweak a man every bit as much as a vicious addiction. What is worse, it can lead him to injure others, directly and intentionally; whereas addictions generally redound first to the addict, and only then to his fellows.

What are the warning signs? If it seems to you that all, or almost all, of the problems in your life go back to the same thing – your mother, your spouse, that lover who spurned or betrayed you, the government, the war, liberals, banks, whatever – then there is a good chance you are idolatrously enslaved. If you often find yourself fulminating about some injury done to you long ago, and unable to let go of it, then you are almost certainly stuck, snared in the toils of hatred: and in rehearsing your wound you irritate and enflame it all the more. Then are you like a man who turns again repeatedly to stumble over a scandal, rather than picking himself up, shaking the dust off, and moving on.

One of the reasons Jesus tells us to love and forgive our enemies is so that we can get free of such obsessions.

14 thoughts on “Hatred Enslaves

  1. Pingback: Hatred Enslaves | Neoreactive

  2. Kristor, is it not possible, too, for love to enslave? Though I am not a father myself, I do not find it difficult to imagine that a father might be consumed with guilt, grief, sorrow and regret over his child falling away from the Church and into the arms of the Enemy. Christ teaches us that he came to bring a sword, and that we must hate father and mother, etc., but yet it seems thoroughly foreign to the nature of love to prevent such events from devastating oneself by maintaining a degree of detachment from those one cares about the most. All personal relations are, after all, built on interpersonal dependency and trust, and this is infinitely more true for a relation as intimate as a familial one. In fact, it seems that the deeper the love, the more fervent the effort one would make to convince the person to repent, and this project could very well consume the majority of one’s strength and attention, causing this labour of love to become a form of enslavement. It seems clearly profoundly unnatural for one to limit the degree of charity he shows towards others, especially his family, and yet this love could well lead to one’s enslavement. How can this contradiction be resolved?

    • Sure, it’s possible. All creaturely goods are subject to corruption. But if we love God enough, then all other loves will assume their proper proportion in relation to that fundamental love, upon which all other loves supervene (whether we are aware of that supervention, or not). A defective love of God cannot but work itself out as a disproportionate love of something else.

      That said, the love of a parent for a child is the paradigmatic case of caritas. Charity can be corrupted, but then it ceases to be charity.

      I hear a fair degree of anguish in your question. This seems to be more to you than an abstract issue in moral philosophy, and I feel great sympathy and sorrow for you in your predicament, and for your child in his. I’ve been there. Be patient, I urge you; kids can come around, especially if you remain steadfast, calm, and confident (this being one of the most important things fathers can vouchsafe to their children, and a gift impossible to bequeath to them in the absence of their own abiding faith that in God’s hands all will be well, and well, and all manner of things well). Remember the long, long trial and travail of Saint Monica in prayer for her wayward, errant son, degraded by his depravity to a degree we find astonishing even today, in our own corrupted age. He came around, eventually, and all the way to sainthood. You might consider asking Saint Monica for her help in praying for your own child. Her son might want to get involved, too.

      PS: sorry, I misread you as saying that you *are* a father, when you said that you *are not.* Never mind! Yet I will not retract the comment about praying for wayward children, in case there is some father out there in just such a pickle as you describe.

  3. I would say that you are describing morbid hatred. Like anything morbid, this is to be avoided. But so long as the world contains things that are hateful, there will be a place for proper and ordinate hate. There are things in this world that I love, and that I wish that there were more of. There are things that are to me indifferent. And then there are things that the world would be better off without. What am I to feel toward such things, if not hate. Isn’t hatred the proper response to evil?

    • As the Scripture says, there is time for love and a time for hate, it seems to me. However, it is very easy to get enslaved even to hate that is properly directed. At some point, one must rest in the Sovereignty of God. This is where the balance must lie, it seems to me, between enslaving hatred and/or love. We do not have ultimate control over anything, really. Through grace, we can do what He has commanded, live our lives faithfully, and do our due diligence otherwise, but beyond that at some point it only becomes destructive to fret over everything.

      Of course, this is much easier said than done. Where do we draw the line between Godly concern and anxiousness? Wisdom must decide this in each individual case, it seems.

      • I agree. One of the great problems with hatred is that it easily develops great “momentum,” and is difficult to stop once it is started. Perhaps its tendency to grow inordinate makes it too hot for us to handle. I suppose one might finesse this by saying that one is not acting out of hate, but out of love for that which the hated thing threatens to harm or destroy. And I suppose it is true that hate, at least proper hate, is always grounded in a love that is more fundamental.

    • Hate the sin, love the sinner, as Augustine said. The hatred that I was talking about is hatred of persons. Consider the serenity of Saint Michael in the painting on our masthead, which is a detail of his conquest of Lucifer. That’s the ticket. Love your enemies, even if you must slay them, even as you slay them.

      • True words. When an attacker strikes, respond in kind, but always for the cause of truth, justice, and righteousness, never out of pure loathing or malice. This will often lead you down the dark roads your own enemies have traveled.

      • Mark, truly amazing statement, perfectly fits your behaviors which you have shown, thanks for sharing this beautiful paragraph. God bless you. 🙂

      • “Love your enemies, even if you must slay them, even as you slay them.”

        Wouldn’t you please be my enemy for me slaying you in love, according to the words you wrote?

    • Acceptable hatred? Isn’t this better characterized as anger, as in “righteous anger”? Hatred–to me, and I am neither a philosopher nor have I given the matter that much consideration–is used in my experience as shorthand for anger to a be-ing, rather than a do-ing. But to the extent that something “is,” or is a be-ing, it is a good. And anger toward a good, it is disordered by definition. I dislike the saying, “hate the sin, not the sinner,” but there is some truth to the proposition.
      So while my anger toward Abraham Lincoln may be quite righteous, but my hatred of this loathsome heinous individual I must confess to be a sin.

      • I also have mixed feelings about the motto, “hate the sin but not the sinner.” On the one hand it reminds us that no one is utterly lost until death has removed all chance of repentance. On the other hand it blinds us to the intimate connection between being and doing when it comes to the human soul. One may begin life as a man who happens to sin, but without repentance, discipline and grace, it seems that sin enters into one’s soul and becomes the purpose of that soul. When that happens, one really is a sinner, and not just a man who has sinned. We see the same difference between the young man who gets drunk and the old man who is a drunk.

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