If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21 NASB)

You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. (Author Anne Lamott, from her book "Bird by Bird": Pantheon, 1994)

Whom do you hate? Hold on a minute before you answer that question.

I've actually had people admit to me that they hated somebody. Many times the hater was someone who had suffered unbelievable pain at the hands of another. Human beings are capable of doing some awful things, and the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain we endure because of the actions or words of others seems more than we can bear. When you understand the things that have happened, you can at least understand the powerful hatred that grips the hearts of those who have suffered.

I have known others who were, perhaps, at the other end of the spectrum. They had "personality conflicts," words were said, somebody stabbed the other one in the back — you've heard this before. There was no real tragedy that happened, people just didn't get along. Now they hate each other.

Some marriages end in hate. Some business relationships end in hate. Some neighbors develop an ages-long feud that feeds a never-ending hatred for one another. Racial tensions exist today that are remnants of actions and words from long ago, or not so long ago, and leave the scar of hatred on whole communities. We borrow the hatred of our parents, our siblings, our friends. Sometimes, we hate people and don't know why. Hatred powerfully shapes, directs, and governs a person's life.

Nobody can tell you to just stop experiencing powerful emotions. If it were that easy, neither hatred nor any other problem would persist for long, or cause so many troubles. Gaining control of powerful emotions requires time, effort and purposeful constraint. The good news is that we can make progress by controlling the things more within our reach.

I see a lot of hateful behavior.
A better question might be this: "Toward whom do you act hatefully?"

Why is this a better question? For one important reason — you have more control over how you act toward others than how you feel about them, and by changing how you behave, you have a much better chance of changing how you feel. While God might want us all to have warm, fuzzy feelings toward one another, He is more concerned with our behavior toward one another. Even the command to "love one another," is not primarily a command to feel good about others, it is a command addressing how we behave toward others.

I see a lot of hateful behavior. I see people who are slighted, shunned, treated or spoken to (or about) in negative ways. What I know is that there is something even worse behind the behavior. I also see others who are struggling to gain control over their hatreds. They are making the effort to do what is good and right for others, despite some powerful feeling to the contrary. Those people are not hypocrites, for the hypocrites just do things for a show. I'm talking about people actually trying to overcome the hate in their hearts. Whom do you hate? Maybe it's time to see the link between God and the one you hate. You can't love God and hate others at the same time. We deny that truth all the time.

Now ... whom do you hate?