Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Root of My Hatred

This has been a very revealing season for me. It has been quite a shock for me to discover that I struggle with hatred, but even more so, I am really surprised to uncover the reasons why I hate some people. For most of my life, I have misunderstood hatred. I thought hatred was something you held for someone who made you angry. Or perhaps, you were jealous of that person. I assumed that my problem was anger and jealousy, but these sins are only by-products of my hatred. As it turns out, the root of my hatred is self-righteousness.

Over the past few weeks I have thought about the people that I hate and tried to come up with what they all have in common. Only two of them sinned against me, and in one case it was twelve years ago. I have completely canceled the debts in both cases and I am not angry with either of these people. Most of the others, however, never sinned against me. But in every single case, I look upon the person with disdain because, for whatever reason, I feel she cannot get her act together. (The group of individuals includes both men and women, however, for anonymity's sake I will only use the female pronoun).

In some cases, she appears to have experienced no spiritual growth, or very little spiritual growth, over the past few years. I feel she is intellectually inferior to me as well as spiritually immature. She doesn't do things the way I think they should be done. As I've already revealed in a prior post, I may think she's a complete phony. In other cases, she perpetually complains about the many blessings God has given her, or she complains about the things that God has not given her. Whenever I see her making her way towards me, I think "Oh God, no!" and I look for the nearest exit. In all cases, I am not jealous of her in the least. I think, "Thank God I'm not like her!" I think she is so pathetic that mustering up compassion for her is impossible for me to do. I think life would be so much sweeter if she'd just move to another hemisphere so the chances I'd ever have to come face to face with her again are extremely slim.

I don't hate these people because I'm angry at them. I'm angry at them because I hate them. Does this make sense? I don't hate these people because I'm angry at them. I'm angry at them because I hate them. Does this make sense? I have contempt in my heart for them, therefore, their very essence makes me angry. The very fact that they exist irritates me - unless they are allowed to exist ten thousand miles away where I don't have to deal with them.

Perhaps you are reading through this and thinking, "Oh, Jennifer, that's not hatred! You just dislike that person." If that's the case, then let me ask you to try something for me. Ask yourself if there is anyone you really dislike. Then go look up the definition of hatred in the dictionary. Now tell me if you can find any distinction between those two terms. I don't know about you, but I can't do it!

I'm guilty, and I'm wondering if I'm not alone. I think maybe there are others out there who have misunderstood hatred, as I did. Our society seems to lull us into a coma when it comes to this issue. I know I have been brainwashed to think, "I don't like the person, but it's not like I hate her!" But if you look in the Bible, not once is there ever an example of someone who "disliked someone a great deal." In the Bible, it is never referred to as "disliking someone a great deal," it is called hatred, period.

I am finding that upon understanding what hatred really is, that there are many, many reasons why I would be tempted to hate people. Sometimes I am angry at them. Sometimes I am jealous. But in most cases, it appears that the root of my hatred is self-righteousness. Come to think of it, it would seem that this is always where hatred starts. Can I be unjustly angry with someone without being self-righteous? How about irritated -- can I be irritated with someone without being self-righteous? Can I covet, or judge that God has unfairly given something to someone, without being self-righteous? I don't think so. I think this is where it all stems from.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Battle With Hatred

Isn't it funny the way we will use all sorts of euphemisms for hatred, but not actually admit to hatred itself? We will say things like, "I admit I can't get along with John, but it's not like I hate him or anything." In this statement, I think it is clear that the act of hatred is set apart as something especially heinous, which is why we always seem to just stop short of it. In the past six months, I have noticed that I have made similar statements about a particular individual, always just stopping short of hatred. First, it was, "I don't like ______, but it's not like I hate them or anything." Then it progressed to "I can't stand to be in the same room with ______, but it's not like I hate them or anything." I would think thoughts such as, "I really would love it if ______ moved to a different time zone. But at least I don't hate this person," and "Hypothetically speaking, if ______ died, I would not be very sad. But it's not like I would dance on their grave or anything."

I finally ran out of things that just fell short of hatred, because I had to face the fact that I am indeed harboring hatred in my heart for this person.I finally ran out of things that just fell short of hatred, because I had to face the fact that I am indeed harboring hatred in my heart for this person. The realization that I hate someone is horrifying. After all, I spent so much time and energy illustrating my extreme dislike for this individual while maintaining all the while that I had not crossed the line into hatred. To acknowledge that I had indeed crossed that line is so shameful and embarrassing. God knew this whole time I was in sin, but when I first figured it out, I simply couldn't face Him. I did not pray for a few weeks because I was so ashamed of my sin. The best I could do was eek out a feeble, "God help me; I don't know what to say to You, so I'm going to ask that You speak to me instead." I tried to read Scripture, but it was easier to distract myself from my guilt by keeping busy with my daily responsibilities.

The hardest part for me to get past is the idea that I simply hate this person for no apparent reason. Usually, we tend to hate people who have done something terrible to us, especially if that involves making us angry in some way. But this person never did anything to sin against me. I just hate this person, and the more I hate, the angrier I become. Without giving away too much detail, I found myself in a position where I felt this person was, for lack of a better term, a "phony." I hate phonies. (Funny how I can confess that one with great ease - you see, they deserve to be hated for their insincerity, and for this reason, my hatred of them almost seems noble in my eyes.) But to make matters worse, I am the only person who apparently recognizes that this person is a total phony. Everyone around me seems to be saying, "Isn't so-and-so great? Oh praise God for so-and-so!" If I may be completely transparent with my readers, when I hear talk like this, I want to vomit.

From this point on, I began to view every little thing this person said or did through a self-righteous lens. And because I was viewing them this way, I became angrier and angrier over the situation. Finally, I had to remove myself from the environment in which I came into contact with this person. The Bible tells us to flee temptation, and just being exposed to this individual was tempting me to hate. Once I removed myself from that temptation, I was able to begin the process of dealing with my heart.

God has been gracious to show me other people whom "I strongly dislike, but it's not like I hate them or anything."It has not been easy so far. I still think, "Wouldn't it be great if they just dropped dead? Then I wouldn't have to worry about being friendly to them, even though I think they're a big fat phony!" But at least now I can clearly see how sinful my heart is. I have not repented, but God has been gracious to show me other people whom "I strongly dislike, but it's not like I hate them or anything." All in all, I would say I'm now up to six people or so for whom I feel that "If we never spoke again, it would be no great loss for me, but it's not like I hate them or anything."

It stinks being in this season. I have come out and confessed everything to a few trusted people in my church, and although this is important, I still don't have the godly sorrow I know I need for real repentance. I like not talking to certain people. I like having self-righteous reasons not to talk to them. This is why I cannot help myself out of this situation. I need to rely on God and God alone to restore me.

Yesterday, I prayed aloud these scriptures:
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-12)

A faithful brother offered me this response:
I will bear the indignation of the LORD,
Because I have sinned against Him,
Until He pleads my case
And executes justice for me.
He will bring me forth to the light;
I will see His righteousness. (Micah 7:9)

I will bear God's indignation for my sin. He will leave me in this pit until He pleads my case, has mercy upon me, and grants me the gift of repentance that will bring forth the light that will pull me out of the darkness of hatred. Praise God for His faithfulness! I wait expectantly for His saving grace.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Sin Revealed

It has been almost three months since I last wrote for this blog. I sensed that God wanted me to take some time off, and I knew He wanted to show me something. That something turned out to be my sin.

This last week has been especially difficult. Not only did the Holy Spirit show me that I had been previously blind to my predicament, but once my eyes were opened, I confessed it aloud to several people. I took action to avoid the triggers that tempt me. I have made a lot of progress in the last week. But acknowledging my sin and avoiding temptation is not the end of the battle. Removal of temptation does not change the heart. That battle is just beginning.

I know I'm in sin. My mind fully grasps that concept. But my heart could not care less. My heart likes my sin. It has lied to me and told me that my sin makes me powerful. It tells me that I should not repent, because it's really not that bad, and it makes me feel so good! Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have not repented. Not yet anyway. God is faithful, and repentance is coming. Just yesterday morning, I had a funny thought. I felt that I was supposed to blog my way through this. Immediately, a voice rose up inside me and said, "That's crazy! Why on earth would I want to reveal my sin on my blog?" Immediately, the answer came: "But isn't that how this site got started in the first place?"

It's true. Reformed SHEology all began because I was in sin. Once I had repented, I felt I had to write about my experience and share with others the lessons I learned. I always felt that I wrote my very best "stuff" in the early days of Reformed SHEology, when my heart was on fire after being granted the gift of repentance. Sadly, that feeling began to dry up. The last several months in particular seemed dull, like I was only going through the motions of writing. My prayer was that God would light that fire in me again, so that I could really write from the bottom of my heart, the way I used to. Creating this site and sharing my experiences in cyberspace has been one of the most personally rewarding things I've ever done, and I am convinced that this is an opportunity to experience that all over again.

Only this time, I believe God wants to take things to a deeper level. This time, I am not going to wait until I've fully repented before I start reflecting upon how this sin has affected my life. This time, I am going to start blogging while I am still in the midst of the battle. My goal is to record what I am going through now, in the hopes that working through this process publicly will bless someone.

So without further ado, let me confess my sin: it just so happens to be the very same sin that gripped me two years ago, and eventually inspired me to start this blog in the first place.

Yes, my friends. I am angry.