I HAD always thought of myself as a peaceful, gentle, loving person. I can't say I never got angry, and I was conscious of the need to do better. When I got into a battle of wills with the squirrels that routinely raided our bird feeder, however, I experienced a level of anger and frustration I didn't even know existed. I even found myself thinking that their deaths would be a welcome sight.
Then one day it seemed I had gotten my wish. A squirrel ran in front of my car and despite my genuine efforts to avoid it, I was not able to do so. The feeling of dismay I experienced was a far cry from the satisfaction my hateful thoughts had promised. I also realized that my anger toward the squirrels was just one part of feelings of frustration I had had for some time. With this discovery, I knew that I had to turn to God for help.
As I prayed, I recalled Christ Jesus' teachings that we are to love one another and to cherish God's creation. He taught us that God is infinite Love and does not include any hate at all. Since the Bible tells us that we are actually made in God's likeness, it follows that to indulge in hatred of any kind is to reject our true, spiritual nature.
But how do we overcome such temptations? By turning to God for an understanding of the reality of our lives and for healing of the situation that is so troubling to us. I love what David says in the Second Book of Samuel in the Bible. He declares, "the God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence" (22:3).
We are saved when we realize that violent thoughts are actually unnecessary. They serve no useful purpose, but rather tend to make us feel cut off from God, the source of genuine love, and from God's creation. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes this point very succinctly in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, "We bury the sense of infinitude, when we admit that, although God is infinite, evil has a place in this infinity, for evil can have no place, where all space is filled with God" (p. 469).
So to experience harmony and freedom from hateful or violent thoughts, we need to embrace and express Godlike qualities such as love, intelligence, compassion, wisdom, truth, and tenderness. When these predominate in our lives, the subtle influence of violence will be far less likely to entice us. Yet gaining permanent freedom is not a matter of just "thinking good thoughts."
As we make our commitment to giving up violence, we need to look deeper into our lives and to recognize that we are essentially spiritual creatures. We are not material beings, driven by hormones, chemical secretions, or reactions to the behavior of others. As God's ideas, we can know and feel only His influence, His love, His tender care. Christ Jesus proved this again and again when he refused to behave hatefully even in the face of deceit and murderous intent.
Putting this into practice in our individual lives may not always be easy. But each time we turn away from anger and are willing to love, we are working our way out of violence. We are identifying ourselves with the good, loving, spiritual nature God has given us-and this is what will bring both peace and healing. In my own case, I found that the death of the squirrel cured me forever of thinking that death can solve anything. The squirrels still raid the feeders, but I no longer react with anger. And the other problems I was dealing with were resolved as I turned more to God, divine Love, for answers.
Hatred sometimes takes subtle forms, such as "righteous anger" toward a politician or other public figure, a colleague, or a church member. But we overcome hatred in all its forms when we allow evil to have no place in our thoughts. In this way we are not only giving ourselves greater happiness, we are also doing our part to bring more love-instead of hatred-into our world.