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Have you ever wanted to avoid somebody? I have. And, every time I feel like avoiding somebody, I am reminded of an annoying principle my father-in-law taught: a wish to avoid somebody may indicate I am struggling with hatred.

It’s an irritating principle because I don’t like to think I might be harboring hatred in my heart. Hatred is a pretty strong word.

And yet, “a wish to avoid” is one of the definitions of hatred. I’m not talking about staying away from somebody who is abusive. Or keeping yourself safe from potential harm. I’m referring to what we’ve all faced before. Somebody hurts me, and when I see him, I want to run the other way. Like the proverbial, “I’m in the grocery store, and I whip the cart around hoping he won’t see me.”

This happened to me not too long ago, except it was the other person who avoided me. I had quickly run into a coffee shop to get a gift card. I didn’t have much time, so I beelined it to the register. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I recognized someone I hadn’t seen in several years. After I was done getting the card, intending to greet him, I looked over to see him hurrying out the door. I wondered, “Does he really hate me that much?”

In a way, I was surprised I had that thought, but then it made sense to me. He avoided me because things were not right between our families. His avoidance of me was evidence that there was still a major problem. So, I did the only thing I could in this particular relationship, I prayed for his family. I prayed that God would richly bless them and do the thing He does best, heal.

Wanting to avoid somebody or noticing that someone is trying to avoid you should be a big red flag. It indicates hatred might be smoldering. There might not be a visible flame, but it burns just the same, waiting for the opportunity to flare up.

Why does it matter if I actually call my wish to avoid somebody hatred? In order to deal with a real, spiritual problem, I need to call it what it is, so that I can confess it and ask forgiveness for it. Or, in the case of someone avoiding me, I can ask him for forgiveness and pray for him.

We usually think of hatred as being intensely hostile toward someone, murderous even. Hatred certainly is that, but it also encompasses more. One way to figure out if I really do harbor hatred in my heart is to ask myself questions that include definitions of hatred like these:

Do I have strong feelings of resentment? Do I have indignant feelings because of some wrong, insult or injury someone has caused me? Do I have strong feelings of dislike? Am I disgusted by them or what they’ve done? Do I look down in contempt upon another person? Do I have an aversion toward them? Do I despise them? Do I wish to avoid them?

Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” Avoiding people definitely stirs up strife. Nobody likes the feeling of conflict and unresolved issues. Strife is nearly impossible to hide. It might seem easier to not deal with issues or to not forgive those who have hurt us, but people know. They can see the smoke, even if it isn’t a raging fire.

Hatred is a scary, big word. I’d rather not think that I might hate somebody. And yet, if I’m serious about living this Christian life, I cannot allow hatred in any form to dwell in my heart. Avoiding people is easy. It’s what we naturally do when we are hurt. Forgiveness and making things right, those are the hard things… but, they are the things my Master calls me to do.


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