Sunday, June 16, 2013

Trapped by Hatred

Jesus told us to love our enemies, so if we are followers of Jesus, that’s pretty basic.  But even as followers of Jesus we can create an enemy in our minds so insidious, so horrible that whatever measures we use against that enemy is justified.  This is called hatred or rage or bitterness. It could be against an ex-spouse, against a political party, against a group who hurt us, against a corporation or against an ideology.

Signs We Are In Attack Mode

 It is a state of mind, like falling in love, in which all of our life experiences are colored by this experience, and we don’t know how much it affects us.  And if someone mentions it, we will often deny that we are in a state of hatred.  So how can we know?  Here are some signs:

1.       We find ourselves thinking about these same wrongs done by our opponent when our minds are at ease.

2.       We will re-direct conversations (especially on the internet) to the wrongs done, even when the connection in the conversation is tenuous at best.

3.       Our friends stop conversing with us, for fear we will bring up this subject again.

4.       We ignore our close friends’ recommendations that we have gone over the deep end in this subject.

5.       We excuse our actions and obsessions by saying, “But they deserve it!” which gives us an excuse to list their sins again.

6.       We pursue any opportunity to list the sins of our opponent, and we think that this is the best way to gather supporters against them.

7.       We cannot see what good our opponent does, everything they do is black, with no shades of gray.

8.       Those who see some good they do, or who question some of our propositions must be absolutely convinced of our opponent’s evil.

9.       If it comes, we rejoice in our opponent’s downfall.

10.   We find ourselves participating in groups that express hatred in open terms with which we are uncomfortable, but we think our cause allows for that.

What can we do?

If we find ourselves in such a state, we might be both a little embarrassed but also assured that we are right.  In some ways we might very well be right.  It is easy to find wrongdoers, but harder to change the situation into right.  Jesus does not want us to spew hatred against our enemies, but to love them, to convert them to doing right through Him.  How can we do that?

1.       Change ourselves.
If we want to change those around us, or part of the world, we must first change ourselves.  We must be the change we see in others.  If we want to be listened to, we must first listen.  If we want to be forgiven, we must first forgive.  If we want justice, we must first enact justice.  If we want our opponent to change, we must enact the change in our lives, in our communities, and show how it works better.

2.       Release bitterness.
Our listing of other’s sins and perpetual angry speech isn’t hurting our opponent, it is only hurting ourselves by making us bitter people.   We need to recognize that we are making others uncomfortable with us by creating an enemy.  Even if they have attacked us first, we are the ones perpetuating the war.  For our own sakes, we need to release this bitterness.  But if our minds are so focused on this, how can we possibly overcome it?

-Take a fast of judging speech.  Don’t post anything angry about anyone on your FB page, don’t blog about it, don’t talk to your spouse about it for as long as you feel necessary.  A month is a good, round number, and the sins of our opponent will still be there when we are done with the fast.

-Don’t allow ourselves to think about it when our minds our quiet.  We can’t actually stop thinking about something, but we can distract ourselves with things that are positive—books, movies, music that focuses us on what is good, honorable and noble.

-Make a list of what positive things our opponent has done.  Every person, group and organization has done something good.  If we can’t see it, it is because we are blinded by our own anger.  If we really want our opponents to change, we must admit what good they have done, even if the good is only positive motivation—that they tried to do something good, even if they failed.  This is a hard step, but unless we can do this, our own healing is on hold.

3.       Use your anger for good
Bald anger only produces more anger.  We can use our anger to be wise, to see good be done. Instead of speaking against someone, we need to figure out ways to positively stop the evil being done.  To “win” is not to cause our opponent to fail, for that only leaves a void for another person/organization to step in and cause evil again.  Rather, we need to produce good that will replace the evil.  This requires imagination and ingenuity.  But if we have the energy to be angry, we have the energy to turn that anger to produce good out of it.  And in whatever action you do against your opponent, be able to say to them honestly “I love you (opponent), and so I want to see (positive action) happen.”

4.       For every negative comment, make two positive ones

There is a time for anger.  There is a time to talk about wrongs done.  But if that’s all we are talking about, we are only bringing more anger into the world.  Vow to not only talk about wrongs done on the internet or in conversation, but to focus on the good.  Be funny.  Post beauty.  Encourage someone.  In this way your life will have a better balance.  

"Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry."  James 1:19