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Family Matters 08/21/17

What Hate Does to People

Young man full of hate

These past few weeks, Americans have seen the worst part of humanity—hate acted out in our public streets. Hate against people of different races, hate against the police, against those who are different, against groups, individuals.

When O.J. Simpson was paroled a few recently, I heard news commentators say they hated him. When I search for images of hate, pictures of our president emerge.

But what happens when we feel this powerful emotion towards a group of people or an individual? What does it mean to be "in hate" rather than be in love? While some would argue that there is fine line between the two feeling states, the brain activates differently "in hate."

When someone is in love, the parts of the brain involved in judgment and reason deactivate. This is why we often say that love makes someone "stupid" and they lose their good sense. But hate heightens your judgment. It activates regions in the brain associated with aggression. The motor parts of your brain move that aggression into action. This is why holding on to hate is dangerous. The more a person hates, the more prone he or she is to taking action. Haters calculate their moves and plan revenge. Reason and rumination are both involved.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in this negative state of emotion–they have been deeply hurt by someone, feel afraid of others, or feel empty and target others as a way to deal with the void. Sometimes, we hate because others remind us of negative things about ourselves and we project those feelings on to others. Hate can also be bred by betrayal and by envy. Hate can become all-consuming and affect a person physically, as well as, spiritually and emotionally. In the end, it leads to bitterness.

We learn to hate somewhere—whether the source is online, a family system, disturbed friends, violent video games—something has to begin to build hate as a way to deal with others and/or ourselves. But hatred is a heart sin. For the Christian, it is viewed as an act of murder. We are directed to rid ourselves of this destructive emotion.

The science of hate tells us that people who feel hate often think they can also be loving and kind in other parts of their lives, but hate is a cancer and brings only destruction. "Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:11).

There is no positive benefit or place for hate other than directing that emotion to evil. Psalm 97:10. "Let those who love the Lord hate evil." The way to get out of that darkness is to walk in the light and allow God to transform your heart. Forgive those who have hurt you, let go of bitterness and the need for revenge, stop thinking and ruminating about your injustices. Rather think about how can you be part of the solution and begin open your heart to love.

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