Hate is a cattle prod. It finally nudges some over the brink to commit the kind of violent acts that have shocked us recently, both foreign and domestic.
You and I might know we’d never get pushed that far. But what if we are nursing some unyielding disdain of our own? Are we then helping to create a loveless environment ripe for justifying crime?
Experts and pundits might disagree on the answer to that, but what if we turned the question on its head and asked if rooting out hatred from our thinking can have a positive impact beyond our own peace of mind?
Besides it being a cattle prod, hate is a poison, and its antidote needs to be a remedy that reaches thought and radically transforms it. And I have found prayer to be such an antidote, for certain forms of prayer steer and mold thought in a way which can, in turn, heal the body.
A friend’s experience shows both hate’s disturbing effects and how prayer can trigger a transformation.
Pat was a Registered Nurse and a new mother. Unfortunately, her newborn son was paralyzed on his right side. He also had a large tumor on his neck. Doctors told Pat he wouldn’t live very long. In order to care for him while he was still alive, Pat brought her son home.
But she also had something else on her mind.
“During my pregnancy, I hated a family member who’d spread lies about me – untrue drug allegations. The accusations could have had immediate consequences on my nursing career,” Pat told me.
Every time Pat would answer a call from this woman, she would quickly pass the phone to someone else. “I couldn’t stand talking with her. I couldn’t forgive her,” she said.
Pat’s in-laws were Christian Scientists and they asked her if she would like them to pray for her. Wishing to be polite, Pat accepted their offer, although she had no idea of exactly what that entailed.
The next morning, however, she answered another call from the woman she couldn’t stop hating and, this time, something was different. Rather than passing the phone off to someone else, Pat felt free to talk with her relative, who was also a new mother.
Pat told me, “Not only had I hated her, I’d been jealous because this woman had given birth to a girl. During my pregnancy, I had yearned for a girl, not a boy. So I was genuinely surprised to find myself asking about this woman’s baby.”
After hanging up from what turned out to be an almost shockingly pleasant phone conversation, Pat started walking toward her son’s room. As she was walking, the thought came to her, “Go ahead, try. Try and hate her.”
Pat tried, but suddenly she couldn’t. The hate was gone. Then she opened the door and looked at her baby and was overjoyed to see that its suffering had also gone.
“He was wiggling all his arms and legs. The paralysis was gone. I looked at his neck. The tumor was gone. My son was healthy,” she recalled.
Experiences like Pat’s convince me that hate is not an intrinsic quality of our mental make-up. Our true nature is spiritual, and we inherently express God’s wisdom, dignity, and care. Therefore, we can reject hatred in ourselves and administer an antidote for hate to the world with a prayer strengthened by a double–dose of divine tenderness.
And it’s natural to look for opportunities to help instead of harm; to understand and love others, rather than judge and despise them. The ability to see another as God sees His child is inherent in each of us and helps everyone. Doing so transforms minds, improves bodies, and helps keep communities safe.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus, writing to a church in Corinth, wrote, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Cor 13:4 NKJV)
If we are unaware or forget that we live to express divine love, we give room for hate, evil, to take on an apparent realness when there is no need to do so. On the other hand, an understanding of God’s allness and goodness can prevent evil from hijacking our thought and society as a whole. If we are willing to accept that evil is powerless because the infinite nature of divine goodness is becoming more real to us, then our desire, our prayer, is the beginning of the end of evil, therefore, the end of hate.
Mary Baker Eddy, a keen follower of Jesus’ teachings that led her to the discovery of Christian Science, wrote, “True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us. Prayer begets an awakened desire to be and do good. It makes new and scientific discoveries of God, of His goodness and power. It shows us more clearly than we saw before, what we already have and are; and most of all, it shows us what God is.”
The cost of not loving our neighbor is extremely high. Since we are all God’s children, God’s individual self-expressions, we can learn to love by increasing our understanding of God through prayer each day. We can help the world by refusing to hate and loving more.
Originally published in the Houston Chronicle, @HoustonChron