Hate requires incredible amounts of energy to sustain. Because of my year-long journey with long COVID, I’ve begun to measure things in terms of the energy they require: physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual energy. Some days I’ve had to decide between taking the trash out or having a phone conversation. Even reading drained me. As I absorbed and grieved the recent terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel and their deadly response, I surprised myself by wondering how much energy it took to hate that much. Who has that much energy to hate so deeply to spend millions of dollars, untold hours, human potential, and human life on an attack like that? The case against hate is love and that hate requires too much energy to sustain.
Hate Requires Your Life
Think of it. For thousands of years certain people in these two groups have fostered hate for the other. That means they’ve had to nurture and cherish past wrongs and pass on the wounds and scabs in stories to their children. They’ve risen to glorious sunrises and darkened the day with pain and wrongs remembered. They have built towering theological walls to protect their hate. They have made complex plans for revenge and retribution. Every hour of most, if not all days, are filled with collecting firewood and fueling the flames of hate. And they are not the only ones doing so. It must be exhausting.
Of course this is not everyone in their culture. Many resist the hate. But even that is energy consumed on hate. Imagine the beauty, love, inventiveness, creativity that has been stifled because of this energy depletion. “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”Maya Angelou.
We are familiar with the destruction done in the name of hate. It’s impossible to know what has been left undone in that same name.
Hate Has Individual Roots
I can only look at my life. In order to keep my grief a bay, I spent over a decade hating my dad for dying. I know it sounds stupid. He didn’t die on purpose. Maybe all hate is stupid. But it was the only thing I knew to do with the aching hole he left in my life. I couldn’t leave it empty. And I had no idea what to pour into it. I filled it with loathing. This is the problem. The blueprints for destruction are uncomplicated. Creation is a complex, beautiful mystery.
When sorrow came, I told myself, “He wasn’t a good dad anyway. You’re better off.” And, “Remember how angry he’d get?” I would march every fault I could muster through my mind to leave no room for the pain of loss, which was a reflection of love. If I allowed for the good, loving things to surface then I had to face the question of why he died. I couldn’t do that.
Hate Is an Energy Vampire
Yet to hate him took every once of my energy. I had no energy left for school or friendships or hobbies or writing. Or love. I flunked out of life. Finally though, exhausted with the hate and no longer able to sustain it and live, one Memorial Day I visited his grave at Fort Logan National Cemetery. I was thirty, had my own marriage and kids. They had taken my focus off of my loss, given me energy for love. From them I’d been catching glancing memories of my dad and some fun and good things he did. Light was creeping in alongside the dark.
Forgiveness Casts Out Hate
Still I didn’t know what the hell I was doing at his grave. It had been fifteen years since my last snot soaked, tear flooded visit. Suddenly with the weight of hate lifting, I fell to my knees and asked for forgiveness for hating him. I forgave him for dying. In that moment it was as if he was reborn to me. Yes, I still could remember his faults. But now forgiveness made room to remember how he spent so much time with me. Tucking me into bed. Teaching me how to make ice cream from snow. Showing me how to use a saw and hammer. How to ride a horse. How to tell dad jokes. With hate at bay, I now had energy for love.
I know the Middle East situation is more complex on a historical and global scale than my seemingly petty loss. And whatever I have learned from my deathly bout with long COVID about limited human energy will not rise to the level of turning the conversation concerning Palestine and Israel toward peace. Oh, God that it could. And stop racial hatred in our country. Cool political party hatred.
Leave No Room for Hate
But I’m not proposing a solution. Better minds than mine may have proposals, laws, treaties to offer. I’m simply acknowledging the devastating depletion of energy hate requires. That is true for self hatred, family member to family member, neighbors, diverse ideas, dissimilar religions. Still what if they/we decided against using our precious energy on hate? What if, for each of our real and painful wrongs, we fell to our knees and repented of the hate and opened a dangerous, mysterious hole in our hearts for love.
There are larger examples of this than my little life. Desmond Tutu, and others did this in response to Apartheid. The Amish community who lost a school room full of their children to insane violence did as well.
Jesus Refused to Spend Energy on Hate
And of course Jesus. “Forgive them, Father. They do not know what they do,” he cried from the cross. He left no room for hate and look at the energy he was able to spend on love. Hate still floods our world but love is a torrent too. If we leave energy for it. Maybe this is part of what it means to be Spirit filled. The Holy Spirit energizes us for love and beauty and compassion and forgiveness.
Some say hate flows from fear. We hate those of whom we are afraid. We fear we won’t get what we need because others will. This is ironic for those of us claiming to know and love God. “Fear not,” the Jewish and Christian God says, “for I will be with you.” This same God promises to sustain and provide. Yet God-believers of all stripes are infamous for hate campaigns. Closed fists and not open hands. I need not name them.
The recent deadly tsunami of hate expressed in war left me grieving. How could God-imaged humans do that to other God-imaged humans? There are complex, ancient, troubling answers to that question. Yet, to pull the trigger required shutting out all but fear driven hate. Tomorrow, with God’s power, I’m not going to participate, fuel the fire. I’m going to spend my God-given energy on creating and not destroying.
You can also stay up to date with my long COVID journey here.