The Sad Legacy of Learning to Hate

El Paso, Texas

What would motivate two young men, within the span of 15 hours, from two different States — in El Paso, Texas, and near Dayton, Ohio — to commit senseless acts of mass murder? How could those men have such blatant disregard for killing so many innocent people? Surely, the young men did not come into the world, they were not born, as murderers. How, then, did they develop into killers? They were taught to hate! As a result of many years of indoctrination in hatred, the men committed “hate crimes.”

Hatred is both taught, which is the explicit method of transmitting hate, and caught, which is the implicit method of transmitting hate through a person’s attitudes and actions. Terry Anderson, a former journalist and hostage in Lebanon for almost seven years (16 March 1985 to 4 December 1991), reflecting on hatred, racism and bigotry, says,

“To teach a child to hate is probably the biggest sin anyone can commit, because you not only destroy that child’s life but you destroy so many other lives, as that child grows and spreads hatred.”1

What is it that drives a human being to terrorize and murder others because of their religion, race, nationality, sexuality, and political affiliations? Hate! It begins, regrettably, early in life, while a person is most impressionable.

As a young man or woman grows up with constantly being taught to hate others, he or she becomes blinded by that vice. Hate, then, is intellectually, morally and psychologically “poisonous” to a person, destroying his or her inner life. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rightly observes,

“[H]ate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”2

How can ever-increasing incidents of hate-crimes and mass murder in America be curtailed, if not eliminated? Teach children, adolescents, young men and women to respect others, regardless of their race, religion, lifestyle and ideology. In doing that, young people will be inculcated, educated, in the greatest of all moral virtues, namely, love. In the words of Nelson Mandela,

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”3

Undoubtedly, Mandela would agree with psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s message: “The salvation of man is through love and in love.”4 Therefore, teach young people to love others, which involves, among other things, respecting differences between human beings and tolerating genuine diversity. Teach young men and women that love is a strength, not a weakness. Teach them that love is more powerful than hate, for hate, at the most, can destroy human lives. But love, at its best, can save the world from its inhumanity. To paraphrase Dr. King, only love can gradually replace the “poisonous” effects of hate from the human heart.


1. Terry Anderson, in David Aikman, “Great Souls: Elie Wiesel,” Program Six, Vision Video, Worcester, PA., 1999.

2. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2010), p. 48.

3. Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela(New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), p. 622.

4. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 49.

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