By: Steven Nelms
The truth is, I am exactly what Mike called me. I struggle with compassion. I struggle with empathy. I have no problem saying exactly what I’m thinking with a calm cool voice right in the face of the person I’m thinking it about. Historically it has caused those people to walk (or run) away (and sometimes crying). I don’t intend to make people cry, but if they rub me the wrong way or do/say something that ticks me off, I have absolutely zero reservations against getting really direct really quickly and not pulling any punches. It’s a terrible quality. It’s one I have to constantly work on reeling in to get under control. I would have made an incredible Def Jam poet. But alas, I’m a Christian. I’ve been redeemed for a purpose and that purpose is not to tear people down. The interesting thing is that over the last couple of years, it has actually become fashionable to hate people. And I’m like, wha…?
Popping up as memes, there is this little three word phrase that has become the calling card of the stylishly disinterested. “I hate people.” It’s silly and kind of funny when the phrase is thrown around as an exasperated response to tirades on social media or whatever latest embarrassing display there was on a reality show. It’s even entertaining when used in reference to some group that you and your buddy joke about being less intelligent than yourselves. And don’t try to get all high-and-mighty with me. I know you’ve done it. And you know it too. But what is concerning is when this kind of phrase is used without irony, without humor, and without sarcasm. It’s disconcerting when it’s said with malice. That’s generally how I say it. Again, this is confession time. Not a personal brag via a prolonged explanation.
My wife loves people unlike anyone else I have ever met in my life. If you know my wife and are a close friend of hers, you actually have no idea how much she loves you. You know why you don’t know? Because she doesn’t care about letting you know. She cares about your best interest and doing what is going to help you the most. All the time. Always. Without exception. So imagine us discussing some of the people we interact with socially and her wanting to talk about how we can help them through their struggles and trials (which would require effort on our part) and I’m just sitting there like, “Why can’t I just tell them to grow up and get over it?” Her way is always best. Her way is always loving and is always patient and is always kind. My way is always direct, harsh, and usually lacking in any recognizable compassion. Glory has more friends than I do. Go figure.
I don’t actually think that I hate people. But I certainly struggle to love them. It’s not like I want bad things for others. I wouldn’t prefer calamity over blessings for someone. I’m not mean spirited. But when you live a life that turns inward so much to such an extent that other people start joking about you hating people, that is a red flag. That is a red flag for sure. So I have some advice from personal lessons I’ve been taught by those around me who actually love people. I have some advice for my brothers and sisters who might be tempted to jump on the bandwagon of our hate culture. This is advice coming from someone who has been called an a-hole by his best friend and have heard people joke about how he actually does hate people. Put your memes away and listen up.
1.You Don’t Know What Hate Is.
I’ll forewarn you. This is about to get real, real quick. Don’t joke like you hate people, because you don’t know what hate is. How do I know that? Well, saving the exception that you’re a survivor of any one of the dozens of genocides over the past centuries, or a surviving POW, or a surviving victim of an intensely abusive relationship, then the reality is you have no idea what hating someone actually feels like or looks like. Do you feel the incontrovertible need to slaughter men, women, and children of a particular ethnicity because their heritage, race, or religion is literally repugnant to you? Let me say a sweeping generalization. If you’re reading this, you probably don’t struggle with such genocidal thoughts. Don’t say you hate people. You don’t know what hate is.
2.You’re Not a Hater. You’re Lazy.
It’s easier to throw off the burden of concern for the much lighter and less involved emotion of disinterest. But don’t confuse disinterest for hatred. As we just saw, true hatred takes an immense amount of resources. Time, energy, investment, and sacrifice is necessary to truly hate a people group, much less just one person. What you’re saying when you turn your back on the people around you with a flippant utilization of meme phraseology is that your lazy and you’d rather not care because the alternative is exhausting. Caring for people is the most tiring thing you’ll ever do in your life and the most rewarding. If you want to withdraw and run away from people, fine. But don’t disgrace the fine name of jaded bitter old men by trying to pawn off your lazy cowardice as genuine hatred.
3.Stop Hitting Yourself. You Look Like an Idiot.
When we throw around the phrase that we hate people, we are really just hating on ourselves. We contribute to the community around us. When you go off on a tangent about how people piss you off and start listing off all the ways, you turn into a snake eating its own tail. It’s like the twenty-something year old idealist who rebukes society for self-indulgence while sipping a cocktail in their hipster neighborhood bar. “People are so busy making sure their lives are so comfortable and there’s poor children in Africa that don’t even have clean water!” Saying all of this over your scotch on the rocks in designer boots doesn’t go down as smooth as you’d think. Hating people is proverbially hitting yourself. And it’s dumb. Be a part of the solution if you’re really convinced that humanity needs changing.
Now let me be so very clear that if anyone comes at me for these three points, I will copy and paste this next sentence in my response to them. I have said (and will continue to say) each of these three things to myself (and I need to hear each of these three points repeatedly) because I, more than most, forget the reality of what it means to actually say that I hate people. Once I remind myself of the meaning of what I am saying, it becomes easier to take a step back and look at what I should be doing to change. So again, from the guy who is a hater most of all, listen to these nuggets of thought.
1.You Don’t Have the Right to Hate
As a Christian (and I’m writing primarily to Christians), you don’t have the right to hate anyone. Ever. You are either loving your brothers and sisters with everything you have or you’re sharing the life giving message of the gospel with anyone who isn’t already part of the family. Your life is branded by the blood of Christ and you no longer have the right to hate people. That’s outside of your options so stop trying so hard. The second I feel myself start leaning in that direction where I’d prefer to tell the people around me to shove off and stop reaching out, stop having compassion, and stop trying to be there for others, I have to remind myself of this. I don’t have that choice. I am a slave to righteousness. I am a slave of Christ. Some things are no longer available to me. Hating people is one of those things.
2.You Don’t Really Want to Hate
Again, as a Christian, you’re called to love. You obviously love God, otherwise you wouldn’t be pursuing Christ. And as you’re pursuing Christ, he is putting on your heart what weighs on his heart. He loves people and so you have that same growing inclination to care for and reach out to other people in love. It’s the nature of being conformed to the image of Christ. It’s the nature of becoming Christ-like. So when I start getting my hater attitude, it’s really me pushing against what I actually want to do. I want to love people. I want to care. But it scares the living heck-fire out of me sometimes. When I accept that at the end of the day that I’d really prefer to love people, it makes all the effort of pushing them away all the more ridiculous.
3.You are Stronger Than You Think
Loving people is hard. Caring for people who don’t do things your way, don’t think your way, and don’t care about the same things you do in the same way is incredibly difficult. There’s no getting around it. You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get tired. And you’re going to get frustrated. If you don’t experience hurt, exhaustion, and frustration I think you might be doing something wrong. But here’s the beautiful thing about it. God called you to this life. He redeemed you to love the people around you. And our God is in the business of paying for what he orders and making a way for the things he puts into motion. He’ll be there. He’ll help you. You have his Spirit inside of you. You’re stronger than you think.
So next time you say you hate people, take a moment to correct yourself. Say, “No, you know what? I actually love people. It just gets scary sometimes.” And if you hear someone you care about say that they hate people, maybe take them aside and ask them what’s got them down. Ask them what’s heavy on their heart because you know they don’t actually hate people. But something is going on that has got them feeling like they do or even want to and that’s something that needs prayer and encouragement.
In a world that has made hatred a flippant and humorous meme; let’s make a point to let each other know that in the midst of all our wretchedness, we truly do love people. And we want to love people even more.