Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hate comes far more naturally than we want to believe

Memes are fun and cute and sometimes inspirational or humorous. However, they seldom present sound theological concepts. Although many are taken as such by unsuspecting believers who glibly share them.

For example, I’ve seen this one in various forms, all with essentially the same message:

Awwww. Isn’t that just so sweet? Yes it is.

But is it really true? No, not exactly.

I think this meme possibly came about as a corruption of a quote attributed to Nelson Mandela about racism: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

With the added context that is clearly too much for a simple pithy meme, Mandela’s quote comes closer to being accurate, but is still off. Love does not come more “naturally” than hate.

Or maybe the meme developed from over-stretching the truth that children are born innocent, meaning sinless in the sense of not having committed an act of sin (which is different than being impacted by original sin).

It’s a nice sounding “truism that’s really more of “truthiness-ism” that children love “naturally” and have to be taught to hate.

We like this idea because it means we – all of us – are therefore “naturally” loving. In other words, we come into this world basically “good.” Innocent is not the same as good.

This is the popular myth we attribute to ourselves; that we’re all born good.

But we’re not! Well, not precisely.

This wrong idea even shows up in the courtroom as reported in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article: “’The grand jury report is riddled with emotionally charged language and pejoratives which demonstrate the hostility of the jurors toward Mr. McCauley,"’[Bristol Township's manager William] McCauley's filing said. ‘Hostility does not spring from the air; like hate, it needs to be taught.’” (Emphasis added.]

Well, unfortunately, yes, hostility does, in a manner of speaking, “spring from the air” without being taught.

The reality is that we are born with both the innate ability for hate and love.

Because we are created in the image of God, we are capable of love.  But the full potential of that love remains mostly dormant within us until kindled by a redemptive relationship with God through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because all creation – which includes us – is tainted by sin because of the Fall (original sin), we are “naturally” capable of hate.

In fact, our inherent original sin nature is more active in us than potential goodness until we have an encounter with Jesus and our relationship with God is restored.

Until that happens, our natural badness tends to get the best of any mostly dormant goodness in us.

All we need to do is read the biblical story of Cain and Abel to see the truth in this. Or, just look at toddlers warring over a toy. Or endure election cycles.

Actually, if we are truly honest, all we have to do is search our own motives, examine our own thoughts, and review our own behaviors to see the evil that lurks in our deceitful hearts and too often trips us up.

Even the best of people can be really, really bad in a New York minute. In fact, many “good” behaviors are actually driven by “bad” motives.

When we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that bad and hate come easy. Loving is more challenging.

What is learned, and the skill that needs to be nurtured, is how to be loving rather than to be hateful.

We need to be taught as children and we need to actively train ourselves as adults to choose moment-by-moment to be loving.

Kids can be corrected and taught to love instead of falling back on hate. We, as mature adults, can choose to be more loving than hateful.

Sadly, because of the dire and pervasive effects of original sin, it tends to be easier for us to hate, to be selfish, to lie, to cheat, to steal, to insult, to demean, to be angry, to do and be all manner of unloving things, than it is to love. Especially when it comes to others.

There are countless examples – just pay attention to the news – of kids and adults who were taught to be loving who chose hate which resulted in the most heinous of actions. They chose what came “natural” to them.

Really, without the empowering of the Holy Spirit, true loving is practically impossible. Especially to sustain over the long haul.

The bottom line is this: Left untaught one way or the other, kids will be hateful all on their own. That’s their and our naturally born state.

But through Christ, this can all be changed. It all comes down to making a choice.

Do you believe you were born good? Why or why not? Do you agree or disagree with the point of the post? Why? Do you want to know more about choosing Christ? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


  1. Two items come to mind. Lord of the Flies and the South Pacific song You Have to Be Carefully Taught.

    1. Excellent insight. Item #60 of the Heidelberg Catechism also comes to mind:

      Q. How are you righteous before God?

      A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.[1] Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God's commandments, have never kept any of them,[2] and am still inclined to all evil,[3] yet God, without any merit of my own,[4] out of mere grace,[5] imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.[6] He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me,[7] if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.[8]

      [1] Rom. 3:21-28; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:8-11. [2] Rom. 3:9, 10. [3] Rom. 7:23. [4] Deut. 9:6; Ezek. 36:22; Tit. 3:4, 5. [5] Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8. [6] Rom. 4:3-5; II Cor. 5:17-19; I John 2:1, 2. [7] Rom. 4:24, 25; II Cor. 5:21. [8] John 3:18; Acts 16:30, 31; Rom. 3:22.


Like? Dislike? Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Please share your thoughts on my post below. I want to know what you think. But be civil.