Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hate Like the Hatfields

There is very little television programming my husband and I agree on.  We don't watch a lot of t.v. to begin with so in the few minutes at night we flip through the channels, we tend NOT to stop on the same channels.  I tend towards Food Network and ABC with a smidge of HGTV and TLC thrown in.  He tends toward History, Military, Weather, and whatever other channel has those shows like Ice Road Truckers or that one where the Louisiana guys catch alligators.  Clearly, not a lot of overlap.

This week was a marked contrast.  We both were very interested in watching the Hatfields and McCoys on the History Channel.  I'm was a History/Poli Sci double major, and when they actually do history on the History Channel, I get interested.  Plus, throw in some big name movie actors and a top notch production and I'm there.  We watched all three nights of the miniseries this week.  I loved it (despite hiding my eyes on a few times for fear they'd show more violence than I could bear).

Last night, near the end, one statement stuck in my head.  The Hatfield patriarch was talking to his son, in whom he was greatly displeased, while he fished.  The son was retelling a favorite memory he had with his dad at that same fishing hole from childhood.  As the son tried to explain why he was so different from the rest of the Hatfield clan, he said something like, "I don't have it in me to hate like the Hatfields."  

I thought that, even in movieland, was a wise observation.  The senior Hatfield didn't flinch, but if I'd heard that from my child I sure would have.  This legendary dispute began as a result of a few missteps, some failure to communicate, and lack of interest in resolving the hurt feelings before things snowballed.  Decades of feuding and death because two men chose the wrong course.  Hatred grew to a boiling point and two states nearly went to war over it.

My family doesn't use the word hate a lot. I grew up with a mom telling me not to say "hate" because it meant "to kill" and was too strong of a word.   But I look around and see the results of hatred all around.  In America, there's an entire class of felony for "hate" crimes.  The news features horrific violence perpetrated on Syrian streets.  Entire African nations and warlords commit atrocities against its people stemming from hatred.  Thousands died and buildings crashed to the ground because terrorists intensely hated America.

Seeing those large scale horrors, whether Syrian or Hatfield-ian, makes us think we are immune from growing hate and acting upon it.  We are not.  Since we don't see such dramatic death and destruction in our lives, surely we must not be carrying hatred around. We might be.

Merriam Webster defines hate as, "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury."  Fear. Anger. Sense of injury. There's not one person I know who hasn't experienced those sentiments.  On multiple occasions.  But what we do with that fear, anger or sense of injury could radically alter the course of our life.  Let it go or let it fester.  My dear friend has been writing a devotional on fear and, as she's explored scripture on fear, it is shocking to see the havoc and destruction that fear wreaked in the lives of those who allowed it to govern their actions.

I see it every day:

  • In teen family members that are treated despicably by other girls in their class because of their fear, anger or sense of injury.  Once those girls let that boil into an emotion rather akin to hate, you see bullying, gossip, slandering, and exclusion.  Adult women don't all grow out of that either, and I've seen the same actions shred a woman's confidence, security, or talent.  
  • In adults with their colleagues because they are fearful of losing a job or angry about not being recognized or feel injured because someone stole a customer or promotion.  When the "wronged" person adds fuel to that emotional fire, their resulting retribution lays waste to relationships and businesses.  
  • In marriages, when a spouse is belittled or cheated on; in families, when a death or marriage occurs that divides; in friendships, when someone's life turns out better or easier; in prejudices, when we allow stereotypes we wrongly learned to lead to exclusion, distrust, and closed-mindedness. 

What if, when these injuries occurred, we already had our hearts and spirits settled on the fact that we just can't (or won't) hate like the Hatfields?  What if we decided we would never give hatred a fertile ground in which to grow?  What if we left a legacy behind where our children would never know what harboring hatred looked like?  What if we turned it over to God to deal with justly, and far better, than we ever could?

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