Hate vs. Anger

I was taken aback last week with Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s use of the word “hate” to describe the Democratic anger at the president and Republicans that is propelling organizing for the November midterm election.

Hate is a loaded word to me: it connotes more than anger. With “hate,” I think of nursing a mood and a grudge for so long and with such intensity that it becomes embedded in one’s character.

So, I looked up the definitions. “Anger” is defined as a “strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.”

“Hate” is “intense or passionate dislike.”

Not what I expected. It’s only a matter of degree or intensity that differentiates the words.

Why my visceral reaction?

It’s different being described as filled with hate, easier to casually throw the word around about others.

Hate feels deliberate, willed, even desired; anger is commonly thought of as an emotion which, by definition, is neither bad nor good; it just IS.

Hate is a way of blaming The Other.

And yet, if I think back to the Tea Party anger of 2010, it, too, felt like hate to me.

Saying, “They HATE us,” is a way of dismissing the substance of The Other’s objections or grievances so that I don’t even have to listen. Which we know leads nowhere—except in the direction of more hatred, anger, and eventually powerlessness.

If there’s anything we DON’T need right now, it’s powerlessness. And anger is part of the antidote to powerlessness.

Yesterday, I preached the first in a series of four sermons on the theme of “Reconciliation,” and I guess that’s what prompts me to reflect on anger, hate, and “Othering.”

Because, as wrong as I think Republican policy is right now, as angry as I am at Congress’ inaction in the face of an out-of-control President—these emotions only harden into hate when I blur the boundary between beliefs and personhood.

If I want someone to take a step back and begin to look critically at their own, wrong beliefs and values, I can’t go about it with weaponized attitudes.

Truth telling precedes reconciliation; without truth, there can be no reconciliation. (More on that in another post, I think.) But I must be open to hearing the truth of how I or my kind have hurt the other person and their kind, as well as focused on telling the other person the truth of how I and my kind have been hurt.

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