When I wrote about my dilemma on how to deal with an Orthodox Jewish girl trying to keep the Sabbath in “A Duty to Disclose?” earlier this week, I was trying to use the post to build up to a bigger question that I’ve been wrestling with. I felt like I had seriously erred when I behaved spitefully, even though the target of my ire was not aware of my nastiness, and I didn’t believe she would come to any real harm as the result of my actions.
After I wrote a post about the Christian ideal of radical forgiveness in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a friend asked whether I could think of any circumstances in which hate was not harmful. In a longer discussion, another friends wanted to know why I thought there was something wrong. He wrote:
I’m going to come at this from a weird angle: I sort of understand the sadness against violence, but I’ve never really understood your reaction about hatred. I’m not too sure why there is something less virtuous (in a non-christian sense) about deriving motivation and energy for hate? Is it simply from the corrupting influence that it can lead you to violence?
My general question is more of why should I not want to hate? I feel I’ve talked to you about this in the past, where I think it’s more than just okay to be fueled by ‘negative’ emotions
I promised a longer response here, but I’ve been spinning my wheels a little. The trouble is, it feels so obviously wrong to me to give oneself over to hate in any circumstances that I’m having trouble explaining it to the people who disagree with me. I’d love to draw on your perspectives and kick this around in the comments section before writing a full post.
If you don’t think there’s something wrong with ‘negative emotions,’ tell me a little about why. If you’re closer to my side of this argument, help me muster compelling arguments. If you want a bit more to go on, here’s the thought experiment/edge case I’ve been turning over:
Is it a problem if I hate dead people or fictional people? In either case, my ability to harm the target is suppressed (hate producing negative consequences) and it’s beyond my ability to help heal them (hate preventing positive consequences). Is there a reason I ought to actively suppress my feelings of anger and hate in this circumstance?