It’s funny how first thoughts can suddenly drop into your head at the most unexpected times. Today in the middle of watching “Atonement” — what a wonderful movie! — I was suddenly struck by the idea that everybody in the world has at one time or another loved another person. I don’t know what scene I was watching that stirred that thought, or why it hit me with such an impact, but I was so bowled over by it that I lost track of the film for a few seconds.
The idea that love is a universal experience isn’t new. It isn’t even unusual. But for some reason today it came with a kind of body-blow impact, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Babies seem to come predisposed to love, and that loving tendency continues for several years. Then, like Charles Schultz’s lifelong memory of the “little red-haired girl” in grammar school, almost everybody falls in love with somebody, if only for a short while.
So if loving is an innate human tendency, then hating has to be an acquired and unnatural human emotion. That’s sort of mind-boggling, don’t you think? It means that every time we see or hear somebody spewing hatred, they’re expressing emotions that are not normal for humans to have. Every time we hate, we’re acting in opposition to our natures.
People who hate always claim their hatred is based on some abstract love — of God or country or ideology — but hatred always comes on the heels of fear, and fear always accompanies ignorance. Since every person in the world is subject to ignorance about something, that means every one of us can let distorted information lead us to fear a person or group, and then that fear can lead us to go against our innate nature and hate them.
The paradox is that the more a person hates, the smaller their world becomes and the more likely they are to stay ignorant and afraid. Haters are truly imprisoned by their own unnatural feelings. So it seems to me that if we catch ourselves in a cage of hatred, the only way out is to explore whatever we’re afraid of and see where our ignorance lies.
Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he said “the truth will set you free.”