What It Means To Hate

Doug McManaman
Date: May 15, 2005
Copyright © 2005
All Rights Reserved
Reproduced with Permission

At the start of the CBC News in Review coverage of the Robert Latimer case, Knowlton Nash intones: "This is the story of a father who loved his daughter so much, that he killed her". Some might think Nash was being ironic, but I am not so convinced, especially in light of the amount of support Latimer received from people across the country. Judge Bayda described Latimer as "a typical, salt of the earth, 42 year old farmer...", "a loving caring nurturing person" and "not a murderous thug, devoid of conscience, whose life has been one of violence, greed, contempt for the law and total disrespect for human beings."

The problem, though, is that loving, caring, and nurturing persons do not murder their handicapped children. Putting a helpless and innocent child into the cab of a truck and pumping it full of carbon monoxide fumes and watching at a distance for half an hour is inconsistent with love and care. Nor would a loving, caring, and nurturing parent consider shooting his daughter and then burning her body, as Robert Latimer did. Few of us could do to a wounded pet what Robert Latimer did to his daughter Tracy. How is it then that a court judge could come to the conclusion that such a person is loving and caring, and not devoid of conscience?

I believe the answer, among other things, is that he and everyone who agrees with him is entirely confused about what it means to love and, conversely, what it means to hate.

If a person is confused about love, necessarily will he be confused about what exactly constitutes hatred. Generally speaking, we continue to think of love as a feeling. And if love is a feeling, then hatred is also a feeling. To hate someone, therefore, will mean having negative or adverse feelings towards that person and intending to inflict upon him feelings of sorrow.

But this is simply a deception, and a dangerous one at that. A specifically human hatred is not essentially emotional, nor is it necessarily accompanied by negative emotion or adverse feelings, even though it often is. Hatred, like love, is an act of the will, not an emotion.

Indeed, there is an emotion of love, for instance, the "feelings" one might have for milkshakes, Chelsea Buns and anything else that might make one feel good. Equally, there is an emotion of hate, for instance, the "feelings" one might have for skunks, snakes, and undercooked liver. But there is a higher and more human kind of love of which brute animals are incapable, and this higher love is an action of a higher faculty, namely the will. The will is an entirely different power than the power of sense appetite from which all the emotions ensue.

Very often a person makes an act of the will that is contrary to his feelings or emotions. Getting up out of bed in the morning is a perfect example. Most of us "feel" like sleeping in, but it is an act of the will that gets us up out of bed, one that is usually contrary to our feelings at the time. The decision not to eat a fattening dessert is an act of the will that often goes contrary to our feelings at the time. Love that is specifically human is much more than an emotion or feeling. To love humanly, that is, with that power which distinguishes man from beast, namely the will, is to will the good of the other, even despite one's feelings. To hate, accordingly, is to will that evil befall another. And since evil is a privation, hatred involves a will that another be deprived of basic human goods (i.e., life, truth, friendships, marriage, leisure, etc).

To be assured that will and emotion are two different powers, consider that we can will good for a person towards whom we have very adverse feelings. Even though I feel very angry towards this person and would like to take my revenge, I choose to will what is best for him despite the way I feel. To willingly give in to those feelings and choose in accordance with them is to hate that person. For example, willingly undermining a person's reputation, or willingly trying to destroy a friendship between two people, is hateful.

But the converse is also true. I can hate someone for whom I have positive feelings, or at least no adverse feelings. I can will that evil befall him, without that will at all being accompanied by any adverse feelings towards him whatsoever. To take an extreme example, consider the hit man who has no emotional connection to the person he is about to kill. He fulfills his contract nonetheless. Or, perhaps he shared a lunch with his intended target and actually enjoyed his company. Nevertheless, he fulfills his contract and kills him. This scenario is not entirely unrealistic, for the psychopath has no empathy whatsoever.

Such an action is hateful not because his will is contrary to his victims will. Rather, it is hateful because he is willing that another be deprived of what is basically and intelligibly good. It has nothing at all to do with the will of the victim, much less has it anything to do with how the killer feels.

Consider the following possibilities. I can a) will in accordance with your feelings, or b) will contrary to your feelings. It is also possible that I c) will in accordance with your will, or d) will contrary to your will. It is simply not possible to tell which of these possibilities constitutes a loving will.

Consider the first possibility, that is, to will in accordance with your feelings. Whether or not such willing is truly loving depends upon whether or not your feelings are in accordance with reason. You might not feel like submitting to painful surgery, but any surgeon who is so respectful of your feelings that he chooses not to operate lest he hurt those feelings is nothing less than a fool. If you are married and have feelings for a person who is not your spouse, then willing in accordance with your feelings, for example, by advising you to have an affair, is not loving at all, but adulterous. It is a hateful will, even though I am polite about it, that is, I show you consideration and respect for the way you feel. In these cases, the second possibility, willing contrary to your feelings, is what love demands, even though it might very well seem less polite.

By the same token, willing in accordance with the will of another might be loving, or it might be hateful. It depends upon whether the will of the other is a good will or not. A person who truly loves himself wills what is truly good for himself. Those who love virtue, for example, truly love themselves. But it is possible for a person to hate himself. In this case, he does not will what is good for himself, but what is bad. Those who lie, cheat, and steal, for example, do not love their character enough. They hate themselves, because they are destroying themselves, and we don't destroy what we love.

And so if the other's will is a good will, then my willing in accordance with it is good. If it is not a good will, then my willing in accordance with it is not good, but evil. In this case, willing contrary to such a will is what love demands.

For example, I can join my will to your will to leave your wife and kids because you've fallen for a younger woman. Moreover, I can even be very polite about it. I can be very sensitive to you, considerate of your feelings, listen attentively and non-judgmentally as you complain about your wife's bad breath, grey hairs, and weight gain, and I can remain very fond of your wife and children. And at the same time I can encourage you to be free and do as you will. But infidelity is not good for you, nor is it good for your wife and children, and so to join my will to your evil will is not loving, but hateful.

Were I to oppose your will to leave your family and encourage you to remain faithful to her, my will might displease you, for it would be contrary to yours, but it would be a good will nonetheless.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian was a very polite human being, especially towards his clients. He was very considerate of his clients' feelings, and he was unwilling to oppose his will to theirs. He did not hold negative or adverse feelings towards any of them, but he hated them entirely. His hatred was not emotional, but practical, and purely on the level of the will. He willed that they be deprived of the most fundamental of human goods, namely life itself. Granted, his will was not opposed to theirs, and he only willed what they willed for themselves. But what they willed for themselves was not good, but evil. A suicidal will is a bad will, not a good one. To join one's will to a suicidal will is to join one's will to what is evil. Jack Kevorkian was considerate, but indifferent. He was indifferent to whether his clients chose life or death. But love is not indifferent.

Evil is multi-layered. It will always attempt to hide its darkness under layers of bright colours, and the most dangerously evil are those who will do so intelligently. This is not to suggest that Robert Latimer, for example, was an intelligent man. He was anything but. And it was Kevorkian's egotism that landed him to where he is now. Yet behind post-modernism, which has for decades been patiently laying the moral foundation for a culture in which such depravity as that of a Robert Latimer could appear to an educated court judge as "typical" and "salt of the earth", lurks an intelligence that is nothing less than ingenious. Making moral distinctions might be laborious, but learning to do so is the only way to keep ourselves from being taken in by those who, under the guise of a culture of love, tolerance, and freedom, are doing our thinking for us.