Sunday, March 1, 2009

Question of the Week: What if I feel Hatred?

This is my own question. One that I am personally struggling with for the first time in my life. I have never felt that I had enemies before in my life, but now I am dealing with difficult people and the resulting emotions that surge up within me are sometimes overpowering, and always disturbing. They bring me to tears, sobbing tears, and they bring me to my knees. I do not want to hate anyone. I really want to feel love, and to enjoy a peaceful heart.

In my searching for answers, of course I first contemplate on what the Savior would do. He, of all people, had reason to hate. And yet he didn't. Instead, he counseled,

"But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matt. 5:44)

That is so easy to read, and so hard to live. When someone really does curse you, when someone really does despitefully use you, when someone really does persecute you, well, it's painful. It hurts. The resulting anger and hatred is a secondary, defensive emotion based on that hurt.

What if you have to have dealings with this person? What if this person continues to hurt you and act with total disregard for you as a person, over and over again? How can one have a truly peaceful heart?

How does one love?

Well, my own impression after examination of this scripture is that the Savior wasn't telling us to just "feel" love for our enemies, but to "do" love. Love is an action, a choice that is made day by day and sometimes even minute by minute. The feeling we call love, comes after doing what really is love.

My dad once told me that I was lucky that I was getting to experience these trials. "Wow," he said, "You get to learn how to live one of the hardest commandments, 'love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that despitefully use you and persecute you.'"

Bless. Pray for. Do good to. All acts of service. I must find a way to serve in some way, those that I have difficult feelings for. We love those we serve, we serve those we love. It's all mixed up in there, and for good reason. It takes one to feel the other.

I have to find a way.

I love a book by the Arbinger Institute called, The Anatomy of Peace, that talks about hearts at war, whether in countries or in marriages or other interpersonal relationships. The war is the same. We can either see others as people, with feelings like our own, or we can see them as objects, used to justify our own choices to self-betray. We choose to be 'in the box', to have hearts that are hard, instead of soft, looking at the world as though we are victims of it and everything supports that belief. I think I fall into that trap too often.

I want a soft heart.

I will not vocalize the specifics of the hatred I am feeling. I will not give power to it in that way. I will try to return kindness for cruelty, sweetness for blame. I will try to not fan the flames. I will find a way to serve and love by action. And, of course, I will pray.

The thing is, this person (or at least the actions of this person) deserves to be hated, but I don't deserve to hate, if that makes any sense. When I have these feelings, they consume and poison me. They punish me, not the other person. As someone else said, 'it's like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.' Or something like that. I don't like what these feelings do to me, and that's why I want them purged from my heart.

So, you tell me. What do I do? How do you learn to love someone that you hate? Is it possible, as I believe that it is? How can I have a heart at peace?


Mindy said...

When I went through my divorce almost 10 years ago, my ex-husband did so much to me to tear me down, that I'm still working on overcoming it. One thing that I did to keep the hate out of my heart was what I'm going to tell you about. It's a visual, and it might not work for you, but it did for me.
I put people on a bus. I visualized a bus. The one that did me the most wrong was the driver of that bus, and I visualized him entering it and sitting down and preparing the bus for people. He had to sit there. It wasn't a large bus, but if someone did me wrong, or I felt that they did, I put them on the bus. I pictured them climbing aboard, sitting down, looking around and doing nothing. They were stuck there. Once it was full, I sent it over a cliff. Each time, my ex-husband was the driver.
I never thought past the going over the cliff part, only sending the bus over.
It only took a few times, and then I could move on, and didn't feel so much "bad" towards him. After all, I let him do those things to me. A lot of it couldn't be stopped, but I could have stopped it a long time ago and it never would have come to the point that it did.
Anyway, I put him on a bus, sent it over a cliff, and felt better about it. He still doesn't know that I did this, and I don't intend to ever let him.
I felt better though and never let the hate take over. That's what counts.
Maybe you could find something like this to help you right now?

Hate is a terrible thing, and whatever you can do to stay away from it, is worth it in my opinion.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Is the person you “hate” your husband? It sounds like it. If so, what is he doing that causes you to “hate” him? Are you being physically abused? Is he cheating on you? If so, then leave. Go back to your birth family and start over. Things will work out. If your “hate” towards your husband is based on him not living up to your social and religious ideals, then reevaluate these ideals and see if they are realistic, compatible, functional, etc.. Can anyone, your husband, your children, even you, live up to such ideals? Maybe you really “hate” yourself. I read your blog (as well as many others) and you are very type-A. You project this perfect ideal of a woman, wife, mother, student, church member, etc. Too perfect I think. Is it real? Maybe you should take a break and put these ideals on Mindy’s bus.

Luisa Perkins said...

Hmmm. Responding to the above comment, I've never, ever seen you 'projecting' anything. You are one of the most perfectly honest people I know, and you have verbalized your frailties both here and elsewhere many, many times.

In my considerable experience, the only way to have hatred removed from my heart is to pray for the person I'm hating. I muster every scrap of sincerity I can find and put my rebellious heart into my prayers--day in, day out, for as long as it takes.

When Jesus asks us to pray for our enemies, he's not trying to make things hard for us; he's trying to make things as easy as possible.

I like Mindy's bus imagery. Here's mine. I imagine a scene I regret, one of anger or conflict. Then I telescope it down so that the scene is the size of a small TV screen. Next I imagine the scene inside one of those glass blocks. I picture myself holding the block, then kneeling at Christ's feet and placing it on the floor. Last, I smile gratefully and walk away, not looking back.

Annette Lyon said...

I have to agree with Luisa. I'm guessing Anon hasn't read your blog long enough to see the frailties and weaknesses you're so honest about.

I like Mindy's and Luisa's suggestions. I have no wisdom of my own to offer. I'm learning here.

Anonymous said...

I am still thinking about your post. It bothers me. It dawned on me that it probably is not your current husband but your ex-husband this hatred stuff is all about. Sorry if I came across too attacking on you. You really seem to be a great lady who is always trying to live the life that matters.

Jenna said...

Dear Anonymous,

I have debated inside whether or not to give you the satisfaction of a personal reply on my blog, not just for this comment, but for other hurtful and erroneous comments you have left here. This time I will, only to clear up one thing.

The person that I am struggling to love is NOT my husband. I adore my husband, despite the trials we have faced as we have attempted to do the near impossible. I love him, and even when I don't like him on a particular day, I love him. And you know what? It isn't so important that you try and 'guess' who I'm talking about, because I think that we all have struggles to love others, and the process would be the same. If you have never been at the other end of a persecuting person, you may not understand these feelings.

I really, really try to be as honest as I can be. I think I am a very transparent person, in that what you see is what you get. I never claim to be something I'm not, and anything I do claim I really am trying to do. Yes, I suppose I am a type A personality, and I do have idealistic views of life, but more often than not they have served me well.

I do not hate myself either. Quite the contrary, I think I'm doing pretty well. I wish I had made different choices at times in my life, but I am satisfied by what I have learned by the poor ones I have made. I assure you that I am more aware of my failings than you are, and I am trying to work on them too.

I want my blog to be an accurate portrayal of me, in all things. I put myself out there, openly, in the hopes of connecting with and inspiring others, but also for self-evaluation and the growth I experience from the comments of others. Most of the readers here are my dear friends, in real-life or in blog-life. They have given me great strength.

Have you honestly never felt seriously bad feelings for another person? If you haven't, then help me to overcome mine. But the thing is, you have not lived my life, and even though you read my blog, you are not me, and thus not equipped to make judgments about me. It is interesting to me that you feel such boldness in your analysis of me, but you hide behind anonymity. It is hard for me to pay that much heed.

And if my ideals, or my struggles, or my strengths are offensive to you, you are welcome to quit reading.

And despite the hurtful things you have said to me, for the kind things you have said in other comments, I thank you.

Josi said...

I appreciated Anon's comment--when I first read it I felt very defensive, and then I realized that we, as Mormons, mothers, wives, members of society DO have high ideals. Especially within a religious context we do feel pushed and motivated to be the best we can be. Sometimes these attempts equate to feeling guilt and self-hatred--but that is not the PLAN. It's Christ's way to help us achieve greatness, both in this life and the life beyond, and that is HARD. So, very hard sometimes. Many people without religious base don't worry about that kind of thing, which can make us mormons seem overzealous or setting ourselves up for discouragement--but we just see things different . . . most of the time. I think you (Jenna) have been very honest about the times when you want to flush it, give it up, accept the 'normal' life that other people are happy with. But you KNOW there is more than that. And that knowing motivates you to find out how to forgive and avoid hatred--which can certainly seem like an unattainable ideal at times. I have struggled very much with hatred--pure, white, hot hatred. I have not yet found a solution to it, so I have no advice to offer other than the fact that despite my personal struggles to overcome it I do KNOW Christ will carry it for you, that I do KNOW that you'll be happier without it, that I do KNOW it's a pursuit worthy of your time. Thank you for this post, it's motivated me to pull something out that I need to look at harder than I want to. Ouch.

And thank you Anon for your comment--it motivated me to seek for an answer to the questions you posed, which is a very good thing. Too often I just 'do' without thinking of the 'why'.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry if my comments came across judgmental. I read about 20 blogs per day for a class I teach. We discuss the dynamics of the posts and comments. In my comments and the ones I see others make in response to the blogger's posting I notice that what the blogger really wants is only validation for what they are blogging about. And this is all okay. I won't read or comment anymore on your blogs. (I thought you would really come down on me over your obedient post.)I don't want you to write thinking someone is looking over your shoulder. But, please know this, I was a better person by the reading of your blog. Honest. God bless you.

Jenna said...

Thank you. You don't have to run away, I was just beginning to feel like my blogging really steamed you up too much, and I wanted to remind you that you can "change the channel", is all.

I strongly disagree with your comments about my Obedience post. But I let them be. I think your philosophy was good, but misplaced. My kids make most of their own choices, and they make really good ones because they've been taught correct principles. I figured that your children are still very young, and with experience, more wisdom might come. In any case, I never mind people that disagree with me. I just don't really like people being mean about it.

And of course, blogging is a tool for validation. It's that one common denominator among all people.

Maybe you could post nice things sometimes, instead of only when you have such strong negative feelings, then I won't feel like you're out to get me. :)

Have a great day.

Wonder Woman said...

Well. Glad that's all cleared up. For the record, I knew you weren't talking about your husband. I have a good idea who you might be referring to, but it really doesn't matter, and I like that you chose not to dwell on the details. Instead, you are desperately trying to get past all those details.

Also, have you ever watched "Return to Me" with Minnie Driver and David Duchovney? There's a quote in there I love. "It's the character that's the strongest that God gives the most challenges to. Now you can take that as a compliment." I thought of that when you shared what your dad had told you.

There have been times in my life where hating a person was an option. It never got to that point, and to be honest, I've never thought about why. I think it's because I looked at the reasons for why they hated me. In both accounts, *I* was the one who had first hurt them. Seeing that, and understanding why they were acting certain ways, made me have sympathy for them. I apologized as best I could, and I also forgave them in my heart.

Now Jenna, I'm not saying you offended first. Or that you are unsympathetic. (Hope you didn't misinterpret that!) I'm sure you've gone through many stages of forgiveness, and realized your part is what has happened. But maybe it's time for another cycle through it all. Even if your part was small, even if you weren't the one who offended first, I imagine there was at least something you did that hurt this person's heart. Acknowledging and understanding that will help you see things from their perspective.

I really feel like I'm preaching here, and I hope you realize this isn't coming from a pious place. The hurts I've undergone are very minor compared to yours, I'm sure, but the principles are the same.

I really stopped by to say I have an award for you. :o) I love the way you write and wanted to let you know.

Wonder Woman said...

p.s. you don't have to do the tag

Anonymous said...

J- Those of us that know the real you, know that what you portray in your blog is who you are! I love when people leaves comments though and leave them as anonymous. Why must they hide who they really are?

Misty said...

i want a soft heart too... indeed.

Anonymous said...

I've read and pondered over this post many times. I have many thoughts...going through my mind. Is it really hatred that you have or anger? Isn't that a normal feeling when someone so dear has betrayed you when you have given sooo much of your energy to for years and years. I personally think you should be angry! Who wouldn't be if they had to walk the life you have. Maybe, just maybe it's part of the grieving process to let the past go. Morn the fact that this person is not going to change no matter how much you love or serve them. Didn't Christ himself get "angry" with the selling of merchandise at the temple? Can anger be apart of the process? I don't know...I do know you have a very kind and forgiving heart and with time you will find peace with this like you have so many other times in your life. The Lord loves you, Miss Jenna and so do I!

Blessed said...

This is my first time to drop by your blog but I can really relate to the question you are asking in this post.

Both of the visualizations you have been given are excellent. I just want to add something about the "doing love" part.

In my life the time I struggled with this most was a very difficult, very painful period of my life. The mistreatment I received from a certain couple (lies, slander, false accusations, etc... - prompted by jealousy) put a wedge between me and several other people that took years to overcome. It hurt, it made me angry, it made me want to hate - but when I went to my knees before God all he had to say to me was love and forgive. So I did, every day, several times a day if necessary, eventually I began to see this couple as a pair of people who were hurting and unhappy. I saw began to hear sadness and frustration with their life in their words and they didn't cut me to the heart like they had before. And I understood that forgiveness doesn't just happen it is a choice we make, every day if necessary.

Its been ten years now since that period of my life ended and I still hear news about them at times, I still pray for them, and I've found that what God was able to show me when I was willing to try to love and forgive is true. They have faced difficult things in their family and church, have been estranged from a daughter who is my age and I know they are lonely, hurting people. A few people who know some of what went on at the time don't understand how I can feel the way I do but I feel nothing but sympathy for them, there is no more anger, no more hatred - just pity.

The best thing though is that I'm free - when the time was right I was able to walk away from the situation and move on with my life. When people would call and say - so and so just said... is it true? I could laugh and gently say no, this... is what is true. God took care of it all. It is a painful memory but I think I'm a better person - more caring, kind, considerate, gentle and more forgiving - because of it.

The journey is tough but the destination is worth every step.

family said...

I pray for the people that I have trouble with. This has worked for me. I pray to understand them, I pray that good things will happen to them and to their family....eventually you actually do feel this way and you no longer pray to feel that way. Good luck - its tough!

Mary said...

I agree that praying for the person you hate is a great way to deal with the hate. But, I think you need to know the REASON why you pray for them. They are acting you pray for them because the Bible says the GOODNESS of God will lead them to repentance.
If they were to repent they would not act the way they do and you would be upset by them. So praying for God's goodness... his richest blessing for them would bring you into obedience (praying for them ) and lead them to repentance.
The other comment I have is that we are not led by our feelings. So, don't let the hate have any room to build a nest in your heart. As soon as you feel the hate begin to pray blessings on that person. I think the problem comes when we dwell on the hate instead of using it as a springboard into prayer.
If you use it to begin to pray... Satan is not going to be messing with you too long... he sees he is loosing that battle! JMHO

Mary said...

oops... If they were to repent they would not act the way they do and you would be upset by them

Should be If they were to repent they would not act the way they do and you would NOT be upset by them

That may help the meaning to be a bit clearer! Sorry