Everyone seems to have a chip on his or her shoulder. From the Occupy Wall Street protesters to the Obama-haters, aggression is in the air. Hate appears to be the flavor of the day.
This hate is causing an accelerated polarization of society. But it is causing something more. Are we hearing the warnings that hostile hearts can jeopardize health? Besides straining relationships, hate is a mental poison that causes bodily harm.
Deborah Smith, staff writer for Monitor on Psychology (a publication for the American Psychological Association), in her post "Angry thoughts, at-risk hearts," writes: "Research findings indicate a clear pattern - being an angry or hostile person is bad for your heart." She goes on to cite several studies that prove the point.
It's my experience as a Christian healer that hateful thoughts can be harmful not only to the heart but to every part of the body. Therefore, if hate is a poison, what is the antidote?
The antidote would need to be a remedy that reaches thought and radically transforms it. Could the antidote be prayer? Can certain forms of prayer steer and mold thought which in turn heals the body?
I recently heard an example of this type of transformation. Pat shared with me how she and her son were helped. She said, "At the time, I was a Registered Nurse and a new mother. Unfortunately, my newborn son was paralyzed on his right side. He also had a large tumor on his neck. Doctors told me he would not live very long. In order to care for him while he was still with us, I brought him home.
"During my pregnancy I had hated a family member who had spread lies about me regarding drug allegations," Pat continued. "The accusations could have had immediate consequences on my nursing career. Every time this woman would call, if I answered, I would quickly pass the phone to someone else. I couldn't stand talking with this woman. I couldn't forgive her.
"Then my in-laws asked me if I would like them to pray for me," Pat said. "Not knowing what that really meant because they were Christian Scientists, but wanting to be polite, I accepted their offer. The next morning, I answered another call from the woman I couldn't stop hating.
"This time, however, rather than passing the phone off to someone else, I was led to talk with her," Pat recalled. " The other woman was a new mother ,too. Not only had I hated her, I had also been jealous because the woman had given birth to a girl. During my pregnancy, I had yearned for a girl, not a boy, so I was genuinely surprised to be asking about this woman's baby.
"After hanging up from the shockingly pleasant phone conversation, I started walking toward my baby's room," Pat said. "As I walked, the thought came, ‘Go ahead, try. Try and hate her.' I tried, but suddenly I couldn't. The hate was gone. Then I opened the door and looked at my baby. He was wiggling all his arms and legs. The paralysis was gone. I looked at his neck. The tumor was gone, as well. My son was healthy."
Would hate continue to increase if it was understood that hostile hearts carry health risks? Would society continue its destructive polarized path if prayer was found to be an effective remedy for the mental poison that causes so much harm?
Is hate a natural quality of thought? I believe not. I am also convinced that we can normally reject it because our true nature is spiritual. Therefore, if we wish to administer an antidote for hate, perhaps we can do so with a prayer strengthened by a double-dose of tenderness. How significant it would be if we could improve our own health by loving more and had the opportunity to help others, as well.
Whether it is one political party versus another, one faith group versus another or one ethnic group versus another, tempers are reaching the boiling point faster than ever. Some believe that polarization supports a conviction of beliefs. They consider this a good thing.
I admit that strong convictions are needed to weather storms. Yet, it is harmful for a conviction to be based on arrogance or bigotry. This type of unyielding stance allows hate to inflict damage.
Hate is a danger to us all. What is its antidote? Possibly, tenderness and compassion expressed in our lives is the most effective remedy. Brotherly love should be our flavor of the day.
Keith Wommack is a syndicated health columnist/blogger who contributes to the Houston Chronicle, CNN, the San Antonio Express-News and other publications. He also has agreed to be a regular columnist for the Glen Rose Reporter. We welcome his insights on spirituality, thoughts and health.