Ask a Franciscan

How Should We Combat Hate? 

How do we overcome the small, everyday negativities that can build up and weigh us down? Hate can exhaust us both mentally and physically! 

Perhaps St. Paul gives the best answer when he writes: “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Rom 12:21). We are strongly tempted to respond in kind to the negativities that you describe. Sometimes we even ask ourselves or others, “But what else could I have done?” 

We always have options; responding in kind is only one possibility, though it often seems the easiest one. Because we assign a meaning to events, we can always assign a new and different meaning to the things that you describe. We can create a more life-giving context for that situation. 

Any past event is a fact; we cannot rewind the tape of our individual or collective life, replacing something ugly and extremely destructive with something much more pleasant and life-giving. The Holocaust (Shoah) is a fact; child abuse is a fact; so is human trafficking. Happy thoughts will not erase them. 

We must try to remove innocent people from situations in which they are being abused. Even if we may not be completely successful, we can do something positive. 

Sin always fosters discouragement, a feeling of “What’s the use? I can’t protect all of them.” Sin easily moves into cynicism and accepting as important only those things that I can completely control. 

During the Last Supper, Jesus told the apostles: “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33). Some translations use the word overcome instead of conquered in that verse.

Some people might say that Jesus’ crucifixion and death prove that he has not conquered the world. In the short term, that may seem true, but Jesus takes a much longer view and encourages us to do the same.   

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