Let’s reverse the disturbing trend towards hate

Evan Forester —  February 5, 2014

There is a disturbing trend these days: People are fighting hate with hate.

Perhaps I should not be surprised. After all, this sort of thing has always been around. The internet, however, has expedited things by giving people the freedom of anonymity to really let their insults fly. If you spend much time reading comment threads on news sites, youtube, or internet forums it won’t take long to find this sort of behavior.

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about trolls (people who say preposterous and outrageous things just to make others angry). Trolls are a problem, but all we need to do is ignore them. I’m talking about people who genuinely think they’re making the world a better place by verbally assaulting people who do wrong.

The story of Alicia Lynch

Take, for instance, Alicia Lynch. Now, this story may be ancient history (it happened almost 3 months ago), but I think it provides an excellent picture of the problem.

Lynch made a stupid decision, she really did. She dressed up as a Boston Marathon victim for Halloween. It was insensitive and foolish.

Initially, people called her names and ranted about her insensitivity. But hate always begets more hate, and things quickly escalated for her. There are many tweets and forums filled with horrible statements, but here is an example: “Is that chick with the marathon bombing halloween costume dead yet? have we killed her yet? If we havent, then what are we waiting for?”

Someone found her address and home phone number on the internet, and the death threats started happening over the phone. She lost her job and even her parents had their lives threatened.

Now, Lynch was certainly insensitive. But we have a serious problem in culture when we think that the appropriate way to handle an insensitive person is to hate, bully, and ruin their lives. It’s shocking, actually, that people could feel so incredibly self-righteous about themselves as they make death threats to a 22 year old they’ve never even met.

Do they not realize that their words and actions are an equal, if not greater offense than hers?

The log in your own eye

The Pharisees were also self-righteous. They never did anything wrong, and they looked down on all the sinners who dared cross their paths. Jesus tells a convicting parable in Luke 18:9-14

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Who do you identify with more in that parable? The pharisee or the tax collector? If I’m honest, my personal thoughts sound a lot more like the pharisee. “I’m a good guy! I go to church, lead a small group, love my wife, I don’t drink too much…”

But the reality is, I am much more like the tax collector. I am selfish, egotistical, demeaning, and a sinner in desperate need of mercy. Until we understand this, until we recognize the depths of our own sin and accept the fact that we are actually jerks ourselves, then we’ll struggle to love people like Alicia Lynch who make mistakes.

So before you focus on getting the splinter out of your friend’s eye, consider the log in your own eye. We cannot control the selfishness or sin of others anyway, but with God’s power and help we can see change in our own hearts.

Why hate will never solve the problem

I’m going to close with two quotes from two brilliant men of faith. First is from Martin Luther:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

In fact, if you try to fight darkness with darkness, things will only get darker. If you want to change something positively, it can only happen with love.

And now we turn to a CS Lewis quote,

“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him…The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become—and so on in a vicious circle forever.”

Light defeats the darkness

Avoid the vicious circle, choose to love your enemies. If you want to see less hate in the world, our only weapon is love. To #LiveFully is to love fully.

How to Reverse the trend

It’s nice to talk about how we need to love instead of hate, but what does that actually look like practically? How do you love someone you disagree with on the internet? Here are some ideas on how to start reversing the hate trend in our culture:

1) Remember that you, like me, are a sinner who desperately needs God’s mercy. When you remember that, showing others grace will occur much more naturally.

2) Celebrate the good. Human nature is much more prone to pointing out faults than celebrating the good. Instead of ranting and sharing nasty stories, why not share and comment on positive stories? For instance, it was so encouraging to see the way Atlanta responded to Snowmaggedon last week.

3) Pray for people. We all make mistakes, and we all need prayer. Want to love someone like Alicia Lynch? The easiest thing you can do is pray for her. You could even let them know through social media.

4) Act instead of rant. For some reason, people think that they make a huge difference by ranting about problems in the world. I suppose awareness is a good thing, but instead of just ranting about something that makes you angry, take the time to get your hands dirty and work to reverse the problem. Allowing someone to continue hurting themselves or others isn’t loving at all, so work to help make an actual difference.

Your turn: What can you do today that will show others love?

Evan Forester

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This post was by Evan, an adventure enthusiast learning to #LiveFully in New Zealand. He now writes for Embracing Exile.