I want to wrap up this month’s conversation about hate by examining it from a different angle. I believe hate is often born from fear. When I started writing this, I was thinking about bullies and things that push us out of our comfort zone as well as little things like not wanting to try a new vegetable or learning a new skill. I think children and adults alike often profess their hate of the unknown instead of just admitting we’re scared and want things to stay the same.
I HATE snakes and steamed cabbage!!! Truth is, I am scared to death of snakes and in the fourth grade, I had a terrible encounter with cafeteria-steamed cabbage. I have no desire to get over my fear of snakes or to ever taste cabbage again and by claiming hatred for them, I am excused from ever having to do so.
Fast forward to today!
Wow, what a week brings! Really, over the past week, we could go as far as saying: “Wow, what an hour brings!” So now, I hate snakes, steamed cabbage, and COVID-19.
Our world, as we know it, is rapidly coming to a screeching halt for an unknown window of time. Fear is rampant and left unchecked, hate will blossom. COVID-19 is a microscopic enemy that can’t be seen by the naked eye, yet it has stirred up fear in almost every household.
Just the other day, I read about a Chinese American that was brutally attacked and severely beaten for no other reason than being of the nationality where this virus was first found. This person had absolutely nothing to do with the virus and is as much of a victim of it as the person who attacked him. The offender claimed to hate anyone from China for causing this pandemic—ignorance and fear manifested into hate.
Chinese restaurants are suffering because people won’t order Chinese takeout—ignorance and fear is manifesting into hate.
In yet another instance, two women came to physical blows over toilet paper of all things. Fear of not having what they needed allowed hate to rise up over compassion and fists were thrown. Surely, we’re better than this. God certainly does not want us hurting each other.
These past several days have been scary for sure. The things we took for granted just a couple of weeks ago are now in question. But we had this issue of hating the unknown long before this pandemic covered the world. In little or big things, fear is often the vehicle for hate to arrive.
Have you ever heard a child exclaim their hatred for broccoli, bicycling without the training wheels, or meeting a new friend? Okay, perhaps broccoli isn’t a great example, but my point is valid. When my sons were young, one of them absolutely detested cucumbers even though he had never tasted one. He would tell everyone that offered him a slice how disgusting they were and how much he hated them until the day a family friend bribed him with a story.
He told my son eating cucumbers would give him the most amazing green eyes if he would only try them. And my son’s wish to have emerald green eyes suddenly outweighed his hatred of cucumbers. Upon taking the tiniest bite possible, he realized he actually liked them quite a bit. And even though he doesn’t have emerald eyes, he still enjoys cucumbers. His hate was fear disguised!
Another child I’ve known refused to relinquish his hate for riding a bicycle without training wheels. Today, he’s an adult that does not know how to ride a bike simply because the unwillingness to acknowledge the fear was strong enough to keep the lesson from being learned.
Now those are certainly very elementary examples, but I bet you have some of your own to add. Fear of the unknown or something different from our own experience, twisted into hate, has been around since before Jesus walked on this Earth. Jews hated Gentiles. In fact, Samaritans were completely despised by the Jews. Yes, my friend, hate of the unknown or something different is not new.
One last example. I grew up in an era when segregation was starting to be recognized as no longer acceptable and people were starting to see each other beyond skin color. While we have not fully arrived, it is so much better than it was.
My grandmother, unfortunately, was raised to believe she should only associate with those that looked like her. As much as she was loving and gentle to me, she was a racist. She had been taught to hate what she didn’t know. She wasn’t an evil woman, so for her, fear of the unknown manifested itself as mild hatred. It was not until dementia stole her memory that she let go of this learned hatred related to a person’s skin color. One of the dearest people to her at the end of her life was a gay, black man who loved everyone he met, including her. While I mourned her not remembering times we had shared, I was so happy to see the joy in her face when this caretaker came into her view.
Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that evil is ever present and not all hate comes from a position of fear. I’m just asking you to consider that sometimes it might.
Are there times when you have claimed to hate something but really it was something new, inconvenient, or threatening your comfort zone? Often, we act just like kids exclaiming to hate something or someone simply because we are afraid. We scream “I hate that” without even knowing “that or them.” We’re afraid to open ourselves up to new things, new experiences, and possible failures. We’re afraid to allow someone into our intimate space or to relinquish control over any portion of our lives.
Jesus changed the way we are to interact with others and the world. Remember the Samaritans? Jesus spoke to a hated Samaritan woman at a well. He offered her the same living water He offers you. While He did not approve of her actions, He still valued her. You can read her story in John 4:1-42.
Jesus said that we are to love one another, plain and simple.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34 ESV
Let’s examine our own lives. Are the things we hate justified? Are we limiting ourselves by proclaiming to hate what we actually fear? As Christians, are we demonstrating the love of Christ to those around us or are we projecting an attitude of hatred towards those that we don’t agree with?
This season of social distancing amidst this pandemic will pass. Our world will heal, and life will return to a normal pace. Prayerfully, during this time, we must learn to lift each other up, to be compassionate to those that aren’t like us, and to simply love each other as Christ loves us. Let’s be focused on letting go of the hate.
But I will still hate snakes and steamed cabbage!
Written by Rhonda Carlsen
Note all scripture is taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.