How to Overcome Hatred and Show Grace

Image of hate spelled out in block letters: How can we overcome hatred?
Photo by Nik on Unsplash

Hate: it is a strong word. It means to have intense dislike and loathing for someone or something. It is an emotion that combines feelings of anger, fear, disgust, and bitter resentment. Sometimes, hatred can inspire people to do terrible or violent things to others. If we look at the news, hateful acts seem to be on the rise. Gun violence, racially motivated violence, attacks on the LGBTQ+ community – all of this stems from one base emotion: hatred. Research shows that harboring feelings of hatred is detrimental to our mental and physical health. If you are struggling with feelings of hatred, read on to discover ways to overcome hatred and show grace to others.

What exactly is HATRED?

The Oxford English dictionary provides us a comprehensive definition that uses a lot of strong, intense words – appropriate for such a strong, intense emotion: “Hatred is the condition, or state of relations in which one person hates another; the emotion or feeling of hate; active dislike, detestation; enmity, ill-will, malevolence.”

According to psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, hatred has three main aspects that can manifest one at a time or all at once: 

  1. Negation of intimacy. The person feels disgust and repulsion towards another person (or a group of people). They want to get away and seek distance from that person as much as possible. 
  2. Passion in hate. Feelings of hatred can be fueled by passion where intense anger or fear arises in response to a threat. This often leads someone to approach the person they hate with intent on doing some form of harm. In other words, when hatred is mixed with intense anger or fear, it can cause someone to attack and harm someone.
  3. Commitment/decision. When we hate someone, we tend to continue flaming these feelings of hatred by viewing the target as barely human or subhuman. Hate groups have entire false narratives of why a group is so awful and why they must be destroyed – they brainwash their members. For example, groups that commit atrocities against another group – such as the Nazis under Adolf Hitler, the KKK in the United States, the Hutu-led government that caused the Rwandan genocide – are taught to devalue their object of hatred and think nothing when committing atrocious crimes against a fellow human.

The difference between hatred and anger:

We often associate hatred with anger, and we often use these words interchangeably. When we feel anger, we can feel hate – but it does not always result in hatred. We feel angry for a moment and then we can calm down and it can dissipate. Hatred on the other hand begins with anger but it is sustained – and may result in evil. Because hatred is a sustained emotion, it suggests a reluctance to forgive. Some psychologists have asked the question: is there a choice to hate? More on this later. 

Aristotle provides an excellent insight into the difference between anger and hatred: Whereas anger arises from offenses against oneself; enmity (hatred) may arise even without that; we may hate people merely because of what we take to be their character…Moreover, anger can be cured by time; but hatred cannot.”

Different types of hatred:

There are different types of hatred, two being the most common:

Rational hate: This is hate that stems from a reason (whether real or perceived). For example, if someone humiliates you or causes you harm, hatred results as a consequence. There is a “justification” for this hate. 

Character-conditioned hate: This type of hate comes from deep-seated prejudice against a group of people due to bias and discrimination. Hate targeted against groups may lead to violence or aggression. 

Narratives about hatred and how detrimental it is for us:

Narratives that drive hatred often follow certain patterns. We view the person (or group of people) who are on the receiving end of our hatred as someone who is different from us. They are strangers and not in the ‘in group.’ We see them as impure and contaminated. Sometimes we view them as a “controller” who wants to control and dominate us. Perhaps, they are trying to thwart us in some way. They are the enemy and are guilty of trying to hurt us. We may view them as animals and beasts – they are inhuman, while we are human. 

While sometimes we may have every reason to hate someone, especially if they have hurt us, holding onto the hatred and letting it fester will hurt our mind, body, and soul. Reviewing or “triggering” past experiences that led to hatred can cause us to re-open traumatic wounds.

How can we overcome hatred?

We can combat hate with the following strategies: 

Understand the consequences of hatred. By changing the story by focusing on what are the impacts of hatred and the destruction it can have on individual lives, families, and even entire nations, it may help us to pause and think through our feelings of hatred. 

Be curious and build empathy. When you hate someone, the ability to feel empathy towards someone shuts down. The ability to understand the person’s perspective (cognitive empathy), and the ability to relate to how someone else feels (emotional empathy) is harder to tap into when you feel hatred or even anger. However you have to consciously fight against this. In order to do this, you can simply be curious and ask questions. Ask yourself: “why is this person saying this, acting like this, thinking like this? What could be going on behind closed doors that I may not know about?” This can help you build empathy for the other person. 

Have a conversation with a conflict-oriented mindset. Hate has a tendency to make us want to avoid the person on the receiving end of our hate at all costs. However, we do ourselves a favor if we have a conversation with a conflict-oriented mindset. Approach the conversation with empathy and with a goal to build a win-win situation in order to move away from hate. Share information about yourself and encourage the other to share information about themselves. Seek understanding of the other and build trust. 

As a child of God, what can I do if I’m struggling with the feelings of hate?

God has commanded us to love one another and has made it clear that those who hate are still in the darkness:

1 John 2:9 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”

So how can we overcome hatred as God commanded us?

Remember your identity as a child of God. Even though you may be struggling with hatred remember that you are human. Not only are you human, but you are also a child of God and you can go to Him in your moments of weakness. Do not be too ashamed to admit to God that you are feeling this way.

Request to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Do not try to hide or ignore your feelings of hatred if you are struggling with them. You can ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Admit to God that you cannot get rid of the hatred without Him because the feeling is too strong.

Make intentional plans to overcome hatred with grace. You can pray to God for the person who has been the subject of your hatred and ask God to help you forgive or show grace to the person. Consciously think about how you can show love to this person and develop empathy towards this person, or even do kind acts for this person. Kill them with kindness.

Talk to a therapist or a trusted counselor. If you feel that you are struggling deeply with overcoming feelings of hatred, it may be due to deep-seated feelings of trauma and anger. Speaking with a therapist or a trusted counselor may help you reframe what happened in your past and let go – and eventually forgive and show grace to the person that is the subject of your hatred. Opening up about why you hate someone and the hurt they may have caused you lets you blow off steam.

Remember, the Bible says this: “Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

If you find yourself with intense hatred in your heart, remember that it hurts you just as much it has the potential to hurt others. It is in your best interest to get rid of this root of bitterness sooner rather than later. 

Enjoyed our blogpost? Subscribe to our newsletter for more resources on mental health and integrating the Gospel message in your healing journey. 

If you found our resources useful, please consider donating to Oak Health Foundation, which is a 501(3)c nonprofit dedicated to providing resources regarding holistic mental healthcare and subsidized treatment for those in need.

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