The great philosopher and Jedi, Master Yoda, declared:
“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate… hate leads to suffering.”
We fear what we do not know, what we do not understand, what we cannot understand. Those who are not like us, those who don’t think like us, those who don’t agree with us, those whose priorities and beliefs are at odds with us frighten and confuse us. We fear those on the outside, those beyond our group, those whose beliefs are weird, those whose dogmas are not our own.
We begin to believe that those who don’t agree with us are evil. How could they not be evil when they disagree with us, we who are so obviously righteous? We imagine we can discern their motives, read their minds, intuit their backwardness, and we conclude their motives are selfish and malicious.
Soon, our anger turns to what we decide is justifiable hate. We are convinced that our hatred is reasonable. Our now dehumanized, othered, and vile opponents must of necessity be prevented from continuing to exist. Preventing their success must be achieved at any cost.
We see such hatred every day, perpetrated by people convinced that their cause is just.
And so hatred leads to suffering. Crimes are committed in the name of righteousness. Lives are ruined, associations are terminated, because we’re right and they’re wrong and they must pay. Justice must prevail, by any means necessary.
Everything from the breaking of friendships to murder to vandalism and theft, can be justified as good and righteous and necessary. No pain, no gain. Tit for tat. Payment in kind. Eye for eye.
This, despite the example of Jesus, who forgave those who murdered him. Despite the example of countless martyrs, who forgave their persecutors and murderers. Despite Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek. Despite the words of Jesus that we should return good for evil. Despite the overarching principle to love our neighbors as ourselves. Despite God’s words that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). Despite the condemnation of rejoicing over the downfall of our enemies (Proverbs 24:17).
Do to others as you’d have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12)
But hatred is easier because we are filled with anger and fear.
And fear is overwhelming, all consuming, and entirely natural.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
Love casts out fear. Perhaps we should listen to God when he repeatedly tells us, “do not fear.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)