Love And Hate

Is hate the opposite of love? 

An adage attributed to activist and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel says: “The opposite of love is not hate but indifference.” Indifference means a “lack of interest, feeling or reaction towards somebody/something” (source: Oxford Learner’s Dictionary). What then might be the opposite of hate if not love? 

If we think of love as an intense emotion, would you agree that it involves a sort of deep entanglement, as it were, with someone or something? It’s a feeling that can overpower us and make us do and say irrational things which are out of character for our general state of being. Can hate not also be said to be similar, at least when it comes to the emotion of it? Hate is also intense and can make us do and say stupid things out of character. I’m sure we’ve all seen movies, read books and watched documentaries where someone commits a crime of passion. The difference between the two emotional states is that one is perceived as positive, whereas the other is negative. So is indifference essentially the opposite of both love and hate?

Maybe when we’re talking about love (and hate), the decision surrounding the emotion gives us its true definition. There is a famous passage in the Bible which I’m sure most of us have heard at a wedding ceremony or two that says this: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

In this passage, it is clear that love is entwined with choice. Love could be anthropomorphised in these verses. Love becomes a kind and patient person who is neither envious nor boastful, someone who isn’t selfish in any way. This person doesn’t take pleasure in the pain of others and prefers the truth over lies. This person believes, hopes and endures. If hate was a person, they wouldn’t be anything like this. In this analogy, they almost certainly would be the opposite in intent and purposefulness.

These verses could describe Jesus, who, being of the same heart, mind and substance of the Father and the Holy Spirit, is God, and God is love (1 John 4:8). However, the Bible says that God also hates (Hosea 9:15, for example). God will always do what is best for others, yet He hates what is contrary to His nature, meaning He hates what is contrary to love.

Are you surprised to learn that God hates some things? If indeed we are made in the image of God, then surely it’s okay for us to both love and hate? Can we acknowledge that hatred is sometimes justified? Like God, we hate things that destroy what we love. We hate injustice, and we hate murder and so on. It is true is that we are capable of sin, which means that our love and hatred are sometimes misplaced, but it is no contradiction for a human being to be able to love and hate, as it’s also neither a contradiction for God to be able to love and hate.

I think it is justified to say that indifference is the opposite of love and hate. We were not created to ‘not be bothered’; we were created to be fruitful and multiply, to care for others and create. We don’t achieve this by indifference, by lazily walking through life with a sense of pitilessness and a hint of nihilism. On the contrary, we accomplish what God created us to be, and do, by loving what brings us joy and hating all that could bring us harm.

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