“My bloody thoughts, with violent pace,
Shall ne’er look back, ne’re ebb to humble love,
Till that a capable and wide revenge
Swallow them up.”
Shakespeare, Othlello (1603)
Hatred is the child of resentment and impotence. For hate to thrive, a man must feel that he has suffered unjust harm, but he must also lack the means to take revenge upon his enemy. He may lack the strength, or the courage, or the deadly and devious guile; but hate springs to life only when a man has suffered harmed and there is nothing he can do about it. The pain of harm must join with the pain of humiliation, and what issues from this union are the bloody thoughts of hate.
Revenge is the great palliative of hate because it removes the shame of humiliation and exacts retributive harm. A young man resents a rival who “steals” his girl. Her seduction has done him harm. But he hates her seducer only when the resentment is spiked with the humiliation of impotence. Breaking the windows of his rival’s automobile would alleviate the young man’s pain because it would pay back harm for harm, and, more importantly, because it would demonstrate that the young man is not an impotent patsy or a servile gimp.
In breaking those windows, this young and jilted lover would, in a sense, give vent to his hatred, but giving vent to his hatred may very well cure it. Bloody thoughts of hate will live and grow only so long as they remain mere thoughts. As wise Othello observed, bloody thoughts may be swallowed up by a capable and wide revenge.
These simple facts of life are not erased by homiletic pieties and moralistic gas. Hate is purposed vengeance, just as lust is purposed coitus, and these purposes turn morbid when they remain bottled up in he brain. There is, of course, a right way and a wrong way for a man to take a woman he desires, and not every desire is licit, but the man who never realizes his lusty thoughts in coitus is not altogether a man. There is, likewise, a right way and a wrong way for a man to take revenge on a man (or woman) he hates, and not every hate is justified, but the man who never realizes his bloody thoughts in vengeance is not altogether a man.
As Sir Walter Scott put it,
“When purposed vengeance I forego,
Term me a wretch, nor deem me foe;
And when an insult I forgive,
Then brand me as a slave, and live.”
Sir Walter Scott, Rokeby (1813)
You may be thinking that these are not very Christian sentiments. You are right. But neither are they what I will call Christian sentimentality. Sentimentality is ostentatious simulation of a creditable sentiment, such as grief at a funeral, and Christian sentimentality is ostentatious simulation of sentiments that are creditable in Christians.
But sentimentality is, by its very nature, largely or entirely a display of false, affected, and exaggerated sentiments. The Christian sentimentalist is, in other words, a hypocrite or actor who is making a show of being far better than they are.
I cannot tell you how to forgive someone by whom you have been harmed and humiliated, and whom you consequently (and no doubt guiltily) hate. All the homiletic pieties and moralistic gas come down to the useless demand that you must simply do it. (A sly implication of this imperious approach is that those who cannot simply do it are likely bad people who probably deserved harm, humiliation, and the Hell that awaits those who cannot forgive.) But hate is a hardy growth—even hardier than lust—and forgiveness is not the sort of thing a man can simply decide to do.
Sometimes it comes as a kind of grace, and sometimes it does not. But most of what passes for forgiveness is just a sentimental sham.
* * * * *
I have written before that most of what passes for tolerance is also a sentimental sham. Tolerance is creditable in our liberal ethos, and liberal sentimentality therefore guarantees a surfeit of false, affected and exaggerated tolerance. You can, in fact, be tolerant only under two very rigid conditions. You must disapprove of the behavior you tolerate, and you must have the power to stop it. If you do not disapprove of the behavior, you are indifferent, not tolerant. If you cannot stop it, you are merely resigned. Most of what passes for tolerance is actually indifference or resignation.
Forgiveness is likewise possible only under two rigid conditions. You must still smart with the pain of hurt and humiliation, and you must have in your hands the means to exact a capable and wide revenge. If the pain has passed, you have forgotten, not forgiven. If revenge is beyond your powers, you have acquiesced, “sucked it up,” and accepted your brand as a slave.
Most of what Christian sentimentalists pass off as forgiveness is just forgetting or acquiescence. In other words, it is a sham.
* * * * *
A bold and powerful man does not hate, because there can be no hate without impotence. He will certainly feel the wrath of resentment, but his power and boldness ensure that his wrath does not stay bottled in his brain. With such a man, bloody thoughts are promptly expressed in bloody deeds.
Hatred is the morbid resentment of a weak man who cannot strike back, and it should not be confused with the robust resentment of wrath.
When a bold and powerful man inflicts gratuitous harm on a weaker man, it is an act of cruelty, not hate. The cruel man of power does not hate his victim: he despises him.
Thus what we nowadays call a person of privilege cannot commit a hate crime. He may certainly harm some member of a despised (not hated) minority out of wrath or cruelty, but when he does this he is not expressing hate. A hate crime occurs only when the bloody thoughts of a despised weakling finally, after long and morbid fermentation, pop the cork off of the bottle of his brain.