Friday, June 5, 2015
What Does "Hate" Mean?
In his book, Theology on the Way to Emmaus, Nicholas Lash proposes a model to describe how individuals (or groups) relate to the authority of the past. I found his model useful in considering some of the problems of the present.
Nash notes that “The small child lives in a world in which what it is told is true, and in which the way things are is the way that they have ever been.” He notes that some people, in matters of faith, never get beyond that stage of maturity. “Fundamentalism, then, is a form of infantilism,” he concludes.
Some people mature in faith, often through an adolescent stage, in which they “know the dignity and agony of personal knowledge.” Nash notes that “The adolescent is an iconoclast, for whom the authority of the past is an idol to be broken, a bondage from which it would be free,” but often this freedom comes about through “indiscriminate rejection of the authority of the past.” He concludes that “Christian rationalism … is a form of adolescence.”
Sadly, Nash states that “adulthood is a condition which few of us attain, but which we know … we must seek. The adult knows that the uncritical innocence of the child is irrecoverable. The adult also knows that individuals and groups liberate themselves from the oppressive features of their past not by ignoring that past, or angrily rejecting it, but by critically appropriating it.” It is “the task of constructing the future.” Our knowledge of God, faith, is not an absolute totally understood truth, but has “the character of a quest.” The adult “knows that (in this quest) a trust, an obedience, patterned on the obedience of Jesus, entails having the courage to live, work and die in the darkness in which Jesus himself worked and died.”
Using the Nash analogy, many Catholics are raised in Catholic homes and taught the faith there or in schools by people they trust. As they reach adolescence --- spiritual adolescence, which for some may take many years to reach --- they may feel that some teachings or practices they were taught don’t fit them, or make sense to their way of thinking. If parents, teachers (or the Church) continue to stress what they rebel against, sometimes this rejection of teachings takes on a personal vehemence against the teachers: “You hate me; you don’t love me” --- because you don’t understand (or agree with) my thoughts or feelings.
Sometimes, sadly, that is true, but sometimes it is the adolescent who doesn’t understand the thoughts or feelings of the parent or teacher (Perhaps, in part, because they weren’t such good parents or teachers.) If he is truly growing in physical (and spiritual) maturity, however, at some point the adolescent may study and learn from other sources which explain better what he didn’t understand from his initial teachers. Or perhaps the adolescent may challenge his own emotions with reason: “My parents hate me” --- but, is that logical for me to think that way considering all the other things they have done for me? Do my parent’s actions or words come forth with a vehemence that would indicate hate? When the adolescent begins to reason his childhood truths, study and learn new truths or understandings, and challenges his own views, he is reaching adulthood. And while Nash said few reach this adulthood, it is critical that all Catholics continue the quest --- for these are the physical adults who must teach initial spiritual truths to their own children, and they need to do so with a confidence, to give their children confidence.
Some people think that letting children figure out spiritual truths for themselves --- teaching them the rebellious attitudes they still possess --- is a good thing for their children. What it is, however, is placing them at the maturity level of an adolescent-soon-to-be-adult. This does children no favors, casting adult responsibilities and reasoning expectations on their childhood. This may make some parents feel good: they no longer have to argue with their own parents or teachers (or God) about spiritual truths which confuse them, but they imprint these confusions on their kids. But their kids never get a faith foundation, a reliable truth, and as a result many lives are ruined, lacking the foundation to ever truly become adults themselves.
The mature adult is like a mature fruit; it is meant for another. The fruit falls to the ground, and its seeds bring new life. Or if it is picked by another person, it gives that person sustenance for his life --- it becomes part of him, helping him to mature. We are all meant to help each other in this way. It’s like love, a giving of ourselves to another. The point Nash makes in his example is that we influence others (and our children) with our faith, our love, but we cannot make them as we are. Telling children “This is the truth as I see it” isn’t preventing them from going through whatever faith problems we had. They will still grow, still mature, and hopefully still learn, all their life. They need a good foundation to start on.
The one who proclaims to know the hate (that exists in the mind of another) against himself or others, is like the adolescent, like the unripe fruit. Not ripe, he does not know what true love is, or why he was created, his purpose, which is not only for himself, but to help nurture others also.
Hate is centered on “I”. “You hate me” is the adolescent rebelling against what he was taught is true, trusting not in his parents, his religion, but only in “his truth,” expressed in “his freedom.” But hate is not truth, because it is in him; truth is always found in the reality around us. Wanting something to be true does not make it true. And stating it is so is not a discussion of the matter, but more of a temper tantrum, centered on what we want --- without going through the adulthood stage of having to search for and find it.
Those who preach/write/believe that “they know” that others’ feelings are “anti-“ this or that, or are “-phobic,” or that they “hate” something, don’t really know those other people, or what they think. Each human being is unique; you cannot lump together those who are not you (or don’t agree with you) into any simple descriptive word. And until you become a spiritual adult, recognizing your uniqueness, your own contribution to the teaching and uplifting of others, your own love of neighbor, you cannot begin to see the love --- or hate --- that exists in others.
If you believe someone “hates you,” either you have not matured sufficiently to see the love that exists in every human being, or the person of whom you speak has not reached maturity; they have not learned how to love. But they are not evil in their weakness, and it is not for us to judge them as so.
Growing in love, growing in holiness, is growing in maturity. If your focus is on hate, it means you have some growing up to do, and you best get on with it --- so you can become all you were meant to be, for God, and for us, your neighbors.