Friday, June 6, 2014

Distinction: Divisions of Hatred

Hatred is increasingly becoming the new conversation stopper, similar to using words like "bigot" and "dogmatic." But just because someone uses this word doesn't mean they are using it intelligently or even coherently. It seems therefore convenient and useful to draw up several distinctions and definitions of hatred for Christians. The following is far from adequate but is an attempt to work towards clarity. It is a work in progress.


Last updated: June 7, 2014.

Hatred (synonymous in this case with anger) generically is a movement of extreme dislike, antipathy, or opposition in the face of some perceived evil typically exceeding what is reasonable. By itself the movement is morally neutral. Its object and motivation determine its sinfulness. This movement may occur in the passions (emotions), the intellect, the will, or any combination of the three. This movement may be conscious or unconscious. This movement may be sanctified or not. This movement may be individual or collective.

1.1 Hatred as a passion is a feeling of deep aversion and dislike for some object perceived as evil. Usually it is vigorous and energetic.

1.2 Hatred as an intellectual act is a negative judgment towards an object deeming the object worthy of opposition because it is evil in some way/degree.

  • Problems: this definition is clearly inadequate because it doesn't seem to be able to distinguish between hatred and simple opposition.

1.3 Hatred as an act of the will is a decision to work against an object's proper good due to it, especially through the expression of dislike.

  • Problems: this definition is inadequate for the same reason as above.

2. Hatred may be under the conscious awareness of an individual or group of individuals. In such a case, the individual(s) recognizes the movement of opposition towards a specific object. Nevertheless, the degree of recognition may extend over several levels:

2.1.1 recognition of the movement itself;
2.1.2 recognition of the object of the hatred;
2.1.3 recognition of the reasons for the hatred;
2.1.4 recognition of the unconscious associations motivating the reasons for the hatred.

2.2 Of 2.1.1–2.1.4 above, whichever degree that an individual does not attain to in his conscious awareness remains unconscious. That is unconscious hatred.

3.1 Sanctified or holy hatred can mean either an emotional detachment from some object (as when Christ said, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:26)) that would otherwise impede the individual's taking responsibility for his own life with moral integrity; or holy hatred may mean an antipathy towards some object fully in accord with God's will primarily by means of connaturality through the activation of the gifts of the Holy Ghost and/or secondarily by means of knowledge of the theological sciences. Only insofar as this movement cooperates with the will of God is it a holy hatred. Nevertheless only the movement of the Holy Ghost may fully and in the concrete circumstances protect the movement from exceeding its proper bounds. Although knowledge of the theological sciences may help protect and direct this hatred to a certain extent, knowledge alone is no guarantee of moral excellence and hence self-control.

3.2 Unholy hatred is any hatred that falls outside of the will of God, known primarily connaturally and secondarily through science. This hatred descends by degrees insofar as it moves away from God's expressed will. Furthermore, insofar as this hatred falls outside the will of God, it may apply both to the motivation for the hatred as well as the object of hate. This hatred is therefore by definition sinful to varying degrees.

4.1 Finally, this movement may exist simply in one individual.

4.2 The movement exists collectively when the the same generic movement is focused at the same object. The coherence of this movement increases insofar as its conscious awareness (of varying degrees as indicated above) coordinates and exists identically among individuals. For example, the Saints of heaven possess a collective, holy hatred of sin and all the forces working against God's will, directed principally through the illumination of the Holy Ghost and freely consented to with perfect moral liberty.


To accuse someone of hatred may itself be a veiled act of hatred and may not necessarily mean that the accused actually is acting out of hate.

Furthermore, because hatred may be an act of the will and not concomitantly a movement of the passions, hatred may not be "felt." Hence even apparently apathetic, cold, or even joyful people may be hateful; e.g. a person laughing out of schadenfreude or out of sadistic tendencies.

Indifference is commonly said to be worse than hatred and the "true" opposite of love because at least hatred is some sort of reaction towards an object. In fact, indifference is not the true opposite of love, and often indifference is a form of unconscious hatred precisely because it resists the good by rendering the good meaningless or irrelevant. Indifference may be hatred without its concomitant passion. Strictly speaking, the opposite of an attraction to the good is an aversion from it, but because indifference may also indicate a more subtle form of aversion (by not embracing the proper good), indifference itself may be hatred.

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