Healing the Hate

Steve Matthews

The Kilaeua volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii started spewing lava on May 3, 2018. Initially, lava erupted from the summit. But since then, much of the damage has resulted from pressure building until molten lava breaks through fissures in the surface of the earth.


Kilauea volcano crater as it eats at sunset in Hawaii volcano national park, Big Island, Hawaii, USAHate can feel like a volcano—a destructive, out-of-control force at work in our world, in our communities, and in our lives. Sometimes we think we have hate contained; but if we don’t move beyond hate toward a practice of healing, the hate simmers under the surface, building pressure until it finds a way to spill out.


Reaching Beyond the Hate

In 1994 in the tiny African country of Rwanda, ongoing tensions erupted into civil war between the Tutsi people and the governing Hutus. In 100 days nearly 1,000,000 Tutsis, moderate Hutus, and Twas were slaughtered. How does a country begin to heal the hate in the face of this kind of atrocity?

Today, several organizations are working toward reconciliation in Rwanda. The Rev. Philbert Kalisa (a native Tutsi) founded “REACH Rwanda” in an effort to build relationships with the victims as well as the perpetrators of genocide. REACH has helped to mediate many conversations between these groups, leading people on the path toward forgiveness and healing. REACH has also facilitated restorative justice programs. Once released from prison, some perpetrators have helped to build homes for the victims. And sometimes, the victims take lunch to the laborers, the people who were once their persecutors.

rev_kalisa 2Healing the hate is a slow and deliberate process. Based on the experience of Rev. Kalisa and REACH, it is a daily practice. Why forgive? Why work toward healing? Do we still need to heal the hate even when the other person has not acknowledged any wrongdoing?

We might feel justified in building a wall to protect ourselves. But forgiveness is about more than healing our relationships with other people; it is also about healing ourselves. What does it cost us to hold hate in our hearts and in our bodies? How is the abundance God wishes for us slowly being smothered by our persistent anger, even if that anger is justified?

The call to healing is about God’s love for us. Healing the hate is an invitation to live fully and to allow the Spirit to activate within us gifts that we can offer for the good of the world. REACH’s work inspires this kind of healing. Rev. Kalisa and his companions teach us that healing the hate takes time and friends who faithfully accompany people as they find the courage to move forward.



Think about your own life. How can you heal the hate and halt the burning flow of anger? Maybe you need to ask someone for forgiveness. Perhaps you need to invite others to accompany you as you begin to move forward from an unresolved hate-filled situation. How might you be part of a healing team that walks with someone who wants to heal the hate?

Steve Matthews was a youth minister for over 15 years. He is now a spiritual director, a coach working with redeveloping churches, and Executive Director of the South Coast Mission Hub, a collaborative of churches sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

—from devozine (November/December 2018). Copyright © 2018 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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