FOR THE DAY YOU REALIZE YOU HATE THE ENTIRE WORLD AND DECIDE THAT NO ONE IS WORTH SAVING
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”
-1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
Dear Brother, Dear Sister, Dear Friend,
There are days when we are so overcome with rage, pain, or despair that we cannot see any good in anyone. Maybe the people you share your life with have betrayed you. Maybe strangers look right through you. Maybe it feels as if everyone is out to hurt you or so wrapped up in themselves that they see nothing else. Sometimes the earth itself seems like a dead husk, a barren rock devoid of value or beauty.
Evidence of sin and the cruelty of fallen humanity lurks all around us. It can be hard to see beyond war, slavery, exploitation, selfishness, broken relationships, abuse, deceit, poverty, and pain. We live in a world where young people are kicked out of their homes or run away to escape abuse, and they often find themselves selling sex just to survive. And we live in a world where grown-ups pay to have sex with children. It sometimes seems like this planet and its people are too broken to be fixed and too lost to be found. Even if redemption were possible, it can feel like there is not one person alive worth saving.
I am so sorry that you have come to a moment of profound despair. There is so much horror in our world, and sometimes it overwhelms us. I have endured and witnessed far too many tragedies in my own life. I cannot tell you how many children I know who have been killed by drunk drivers. I used to work as a counselor with young people who survived tragic abuse. One twelve-year-old boy I worked with had been forced to endure years of sexual assault perpetrated by his mother’s narcotics dealer. The mother had no money, so she traded her son’s body in exchange for drugs. As I watched the young boy explode in anger over and over again, it became more and more difficult to believe that I could do anything to help him. I felt powerless. There were moments when it was easier to despair than to hope.
As gay Christians, we might sometimes find ourselves feeling outcast from both Christian and gay communities. We might feel like we do not belong anywhere, and the pain of this rejection can easily turn into an icy hate for the entire world. Sometimes we give up on the entire human race because our hearts are broken by a family member, friend, or lover. A special someone leaves us or refuses to love us back, and we shatter inside. Sometimes we are so exhausted from trying to survive that the little annoying things about our neighbors make us hate them. That person’s shrill voice or that other person’s know-it-all attitude or that one person’s snide comments suddenly become a reason to despise them entirely. Sometimes we secretly hate ourselves, but we hide this unpleasant fact by projecting that hate onto the world.
It can be so easy to abandon our hopes, dreams, and ideals. It can be easy to use people for sex because we no longer believe in real loving relationships. It can be easy to say cruel things because cutting other people out of a group makes us feel like we belong with the crowd. It can be easy to ignore the homeless person on the street because everyone else does. If we find ourselves to be a homeless person on the street, it can be easy to hate the people who ignore us. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in our own feelings, technology, dreams, or desires that we ignore suffering, corruption, environmental destruction, and injustice.
But God calls us to rise above what is easy or expected. God calls us to be faithful to the gospel. As St. Paul says in Galatians 2: 20, “…yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” When we open our hearts to God and allow God, who is love, to live in and through us, we no longer look for validation or peace from the world. We decide to give everything we have even when we receive nothing at all. We decide to forgive even when we are judged and hated. We look for goodness and potential in every soul. We strive to love unconditionally because God loves unconditionally. When we live this way, Jesus works through us. We need to have faith. Even when we fail to see positive results, our efforts matter. All we can do is partner together with Christ to build up the Kingdom of God.
When we allow ourselves to be embittered by anger and despair, we become blind to God’s presence in our world, in each other, and in ourselves. We lose our connection with the sacred presence of the Holy Spirit who lives in every soul and every corner of creation. We lose sight of God’s saving love, which offers redemption to all regardless of whether or not they deserve it.
Jesus bore all our pain and brokenness on the cross. He conquered sin and death through his resurrection. He stared deeply into the horror and the misery of life, and he overcame it. By opening ourselves to him, we can overcome it, too. As Jesus says in John 12: 24, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” We must die to ourselves, we must die to anger and bitterness and hate, so that we may rise with Christ into fullness of life.
If you find yourself hating the world and its people, please reach out for help. Talk to trusted family members, friends, and mentors about how you feel. Ask them to pray with you and for you. Ask them how they maintain hope, joy, and love in a broken world. Consider reaching out to a counselor. Sometimes, we hate the world because deep down, we hate ourselves.
If we give up in despair or bitterness, we cut God out of our lives, and we damn ourselves to misery. For years, I woke up every morning, forced myself out of bed, dragged my heavy body to the bathroom mirror, looked myself in the eye, and said, “Only a few more decades of this and then you get to die.” I felt like every day was a battle, and I kept losing. On the outside, I put on a happy smile, worked for the causes I believed in deep down underneath it all, and studied hard in school. But inside I felt like everything I did was worthless. I started seeing everyone and everything around me through the same gloomy lens. I trusted in God, but I gave up faith that human beings could ever be trustworthy, faithful, or good. I gave up believing people could change. And I believed the lie that flaws made human beings unworthy of love. I hated the world for not being what I wanted it to be. I hated people, including myself, for not being perfect. Looking back, I realize that underlying my negativity was deeply rooted shame and self-hatred. I hated my sexuality and wished I could be straight. I could do nothing about who I was, and so I directed my rage at everything else. Needless to say, all of this anger and hate kept me from fully experiencing the loving grace of God, and I was therefore incapable of embracing the good work He was calling me to do.
Healing from all of this was a long journey marked by grace. I met with a counselor and discussed issues from my past. I spoke with family members, friends, and mentors who shared their struggles and insights with me. I kept lists of bits of wisdom I gained from people, books, and songs. I realized that God was leading me to the truth in a million ways, and all I had to do was open my eyes.
And so, we come to these important questions: How can we maintain love for a world that can be so cruel? How can we love those who hurt us and hurt others?
If you are struggling to find love in your heart for anyone or anything, please go to God in prayer. Let God know how you feel and ask Him to move within your soul. As you read Scripture and go to church, ask the Holy Spirit to give you new life. As is written in Psalm 119: 105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”
When we are tempted to curse the world and our neighbors, we must remind ourselves that God calls us to radical mercy. Through the loving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are called to love everyone, including those who hurt and reject us. As Jesus says in Matthew 5: 44-45, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” We cannot live out this kind of love by our own power. Rather, we must invite God to live in us. We must allow God’s infinite, unconditional, and healing love to grow in our hearts.
If you feel exhausted and loving others seems impossible, I invite you to search for one good memory, one moment in your past, when life felt right, good, and worthwhile. Find such a memory and hold onto it as evidence of God’s loving presence. Let this moment in time be a promise for good things yet to come.
I hold onto a precious moment that happened when I was nine-years-old. My youngest sister, Molly, had been born a couple days earlier and was newly home from the hospital. I sat holding her and watched her sleep as her little fingers wrapped around mine. Her head, with its feathery light-brown hair, nestled perfectly in the crook of my arm. Her tiny chest rose and fell as she slept. I sat there with her for hours, held her, and watched her sleep. Molly was safe in my arms and I loved her. We were together and nothing else seemed to matter very much. My mom kept an eye on us as she went about doing various chores and things, and at some point, she came up to me and said, “Aaron, you’ll make a great dad someday.” Those words planted a seed for one of the great dreams of my life, which is to be a father. I will never forget that moment as long as I live, and thinking about it always brings me joy.
When I encounter deep cruelty, when I feel powerless, when my heart is broken, when people spit on me or my beliefs, when people try to crush my dreams, when I start to think that this world and its people are not worth saving, I go back to that moment with my little sister. I remember how love for her consumed me and how, for a moment, the world became alive with joy. I remind myself that I am still living on the same planet where Molly was born and where she continues to live. This is the world that God made, and this is my time to be alive in it. I open my heart to God and ask Him to show me how I am called to love today.
Sometimes it is difficult to escape feelings of despair, hopelessness, or hate. It is then that we realize most fully that love is ultimately a choice. Even if peace is far away, we can decide to focus more on God’s work than our own feelings. We can choose to live out the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “…Lord, may I not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. Because it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned...” (Teresa, 1996, p. 8).
Thus we can choose to love even when we do not feel particularly hopeful, joyful, or happy. The work of love and salvation is about more than our feelings. There will be days when we feel heartbroken, discouraged, hurt, and angry. It would be unnatural and unhealthy if we never felt these important human emotions. We need them. They can be important clues that we need to take better care of ourselves, change our strategies, adjust relationships, or find roles in life better suited to our skills. But sometimes feelings are just feelings and we need to keep pushing through. If we let God in, miracles can happen in moments of heartbreak and grief. Whenever you find yourself despairing, turn to God. Offer Him your heart and your suffering, and invite Him to raise you to new life.
Above all, God desires for us to live our lives in accordance with the law of love. It is written in Amos 5: 23-24, “Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me holocausts, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.” I believe that God wants us to sing, go to worship services, and engage in rituals that allow us to dwell in joy and truth. However, all of these wonderful experiences are meaningless if they do not yield fruit in acts of loving service to our neighbors. If the feelings of love and joy do not come easily, start with simple acts of love, and pray that your heart follows your hands.
We are called to be the Body of Christ alive in the world today. We must not abandon our work. Listen to the words of the famous prayer often attributed to St. Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world…” (Graham, 2014, p. 92). God entrusts us with the mission to serve, to forgive, to share suffering in solidarity with our neighbors, to reach out in compassion, and to strive for justice. God trusts us. We must not let Him down.
The wars rage on, the horrors continue, the realities of illness and sin and death still haunt our lives. But we must remember that Christ has already won the ultimate victory, and the Holy Spirit lives in us today. God will always give us the strength, courage, wisdom, and hope we need to keep going. Jesus says in Matthew 5: 4, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” There will be times when we feel overcome by the sorrow of the world and our own lives. In these moments we must turn to God. He will transform our suffering into a force for healing, compassion, and justice. He will comfort us, and one day, love alone will remain. Until then, we must persist in love. Remember the words of 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”
Graham, W. C. (2014). 100 days closer to Christ. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. © 2014 by Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission.
Teresa, M. (1996). In my own words. J. L. Gonzalez-Balado (Ed.). Liguori, MO: Liguori Publications. Excerpt from Mother Teresa: In My Own Words © 1996 Liguori Publications liguori.org Used with Permission. All rights reserved.