When we hate someone and hold unforgiveness in our hearts, these negative feelings can consume us like WE drank poison and are waiting for THEM to die. The venomous emotions of hatred and unforgiveness can eat us up inside and destroy us from within. As always, our children are watching us. Are we allowing these emotions to fester in our lives? If we are, why? It may be easier said than done, but we must find forgiveness. In doing so, we can liberate our souls from being tarnished and our spirits from being drained.
The Wolves Within
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, there is a battle between two “wolves” inside all of us. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Overcoming Self-Hatred & Unforgiveness
Self-hatred is like allowing acid to penetrate our brains. It can weaken us emotionally, compromise our immune system, keep us up at night, and make us more susceptible to disease and sickness. Look to the Native American parable above: FEED THE OTHER WOLF! Forgive yourself. Maybe we need to write a letter of forgiveness to ourselves, from the vantage point that we are forgiving a beloved friend or family member. As we write, keep these ideas in mind:
- Writing a letter by hand personalizes it.
- Use precise specificity and be brutally honest.
- Take extreme ownership for our responsibility.
- Explain that continued self-hatred is unfair and unjust.
- Write down some things that may happen if we are unable/unwilling to let go of self-hatred.
- Forgive ourselves as we would forgive a beloved friend or family member.
- Express in detail what we’ve learned during this process.
- Commit to being kinder to ourselves.
- Sign the letter by writing, “I love you.”
Overcoming Hatred & Unforgiveness in Children
Express forgiveness—especially for family. Don’t admonish children today for yesterday’s behavior—they deserve a fresh start, a clean slate each morning. More forgiving parents tend to raise children who are, in turn, more forgiving. Create a home environment of unconditional love, approval, and acceptance. Discuss how people often do hurtful things accidentally. Children tend to be less forgiving when they perceive actions as intentionally hostile and more forgiving when they can give someone the benefit of the doubt. Choosing forgiveness empowers us as we release ourselves from the chains of anger and vengeance.
Largely unaware of the implications of their words, children who are struggling with big feelings often default to saying, “I hate you!” Fathers should teach them respectful ways of getting their needs met—and that being rude or disrespectful are neither reasonable, intelligent, nor productive. Learning to hate is much easier than how to not hate; learning to not hate requires work and effort. It’s up to us as parents to instill principles of self-respect and respect for others while their minds are still so malleable; young and guarded children often have an inherent distrust of unfamiliar things and people. Teach that differences are not to be feared, but that unfamiliarity is interesting and deserving of our respect. Help them understand the many consequences of both verbal and non-verbal hatred while they are still children—they will be more likely to avoid its negativity as adults.
Children with strong executive functioning (depth of working memory, ability to resist impulses, and ability to think creatively / from different perspectives) have a greater propensity for showing forgiveness. Rather than relying on a knee-jerk response when they feel they’ve been wronged, improved impulse control can provide that extra bit of time for children to consider healthy alternatives—such as forgiveness.
Overcoming Hatred & Unforgiveness for the Other Parent
Hatred and unforgiveness for the other parent virtually guarantee a very specific loser: the child. It can be so easy to laser-focus on “winning” and one-upping our ex as punishment for any number of infractions, both real and perceived. We must constantly hold our child’s best interests before us as the guiding light—making THIS our laser-focus: a respectful, amicable, (and even loving) co-parenting relationship. Our ex will always be our children’s mom; our children will love her for the rest of their lives. By keeping this in mind as we manage our co-parenting relationship, we can keep our minds and hearts on what matters most: the best interests of our children.
Sometimes, we can start to backslide and return to focusing on the negatives in our ex. To prevent this vicious cycle from repeating itself, work toward self-awareness while proactively re-directing energy to positive (or even neutral) things. Recall and hold onto some redeeming quality, even if it’s just that our ex loves our children just as much as we do. The captivity of hatred and unforgiveness can prevent us from fulfilling our primary duty: ensuring that our children live their best lives.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” We must teach our children how the perils of hatred and unforgiveness lead to angst and bondage, and how the powers of love and forgiveness lead to peace and freedom.
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” —Colossians 3:13 NLT
This book points children to Jesus, the friend who will forgive them again and again and again. A great book for Lent and Easter.
It’s hard for children to accept not getting their way. Sam hates when his brother cries or his dad is too busy to play. When he loses his place in “Musical Chairs,” Sam cries, “I hate everything!” With the help of his aunt, Sam learns new ways to deal with his anger and feel better.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone knew how to apologize? Luckily, this humorous guidebook is full of practical tips about when, why, and how to say you’re sorry.
Reading can become a favorite part of any child’s life—even children who think they hate to read. With the help of this book, it’s easy to put your reluctant reader on the path to becoming an enthusiastic reader.
An eye-opening read for both liberals and conservatives—and it could not come at a better time. Sally Kohn’s engaging, fascinating, and funny book will open your eyes and your heart.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.