Friday, March 25, 2011

Teaching My Kids To Hate

Don't be too concerned with the title of this post. It's not really what it sounds like. Well, maybe it is.

As kids usually do, my oldest has picked up on my own use of the word "hate." Like, "Oh, I hate when that happens," or "I hate when the toast lands butter side down!" or something like that. I use the word to express disgust or disappointment at every day things. It's a common part of my vernacular, and I usually don't think twice about it when I say the word. That is, until my 3 year old started saying that he hated everything. "I hate this show!" or "I hate this toy." When he started saying that, I wasn't too much of a fan of the word "hate."

We started to tell him that it was not OK to say "hate," which meant I had to watch my own use of the word as well. I could't hold him to a standard that I wasn't willing to hold myself to. The reason we gave him for not using the word was that to hate something was to really dislike it very much, almost as if to wish something didn't exist. It's just a strong word that we didn't want our kids using on a regular basis.

But then I got to thinking about it: there are some things that are worthy of hatred; some things that it is right to hate. For instance, murder, or abortion, or injustice. So rather than tell my kids not to hate anything, I've switched to telling my oldest that we must love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. But before we better be really sure that God hates something before we go around hating it too.

Yesterday while Ferg and I were driving home from Grandma D's house, he said to me out of the blue, "Grandma doesn't say 'hate.' Then we got to talking about how we should love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. Kind of deep for a three year old, but I think he started to get it. At first, he didn't seem to understand how God could hate anything, but I explained to him that God hates sin, and he hates it when we treat each other badly. This was still pretty tough for him to grasp, so I think it's going to be a process.

I think this is a good exercise, though. I hope it gets my kids to start thinking theologically about the world and how they think: Is this something that God hates? How do I know? Is this something that I should hate?

If all this sounds weird, it might be a bit - at least within our culture of tolerance. Nobody likes to think about hatred, or ever wants to be known as someone who hates. But I, for one, would proudly state that I hate abortion. Hatred of one thing implies love for its opposite. I hate abortion because I love children. I hate injustice because I love fairness. I hate sin because I love righteousness (by God's grace). So we all hate something. Even people who claim to love tolerance must then hate intolerance (as ironic as that is). The key is hating the right things - the things that God hates. This is what I'm trying to teach Ferg. It'll probably be a long and delicate process.


Linda Fischer said...

I love this post, Joel. I agree. There are definitely things in this world that we should hate. Sometimes we worry way too much about offending the "tolerant" ones(which you really shouldn't be able to do, right? :))

thanks for sharing!

Joel said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree!