Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Sunday 14 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

What true hate is – and how it differs from dislike


Shutterstock | Roman Samborskyi

Daniel Esparza - published on 04/19/24

In our social media-driven world, strong language is often used for emphasis. But overusing a word like “hate” risks diluting our understanding of evil.

“Ugh, I hate mayonnaise.” Have you ever heard this (or a similar phrase) and felt a pang of discomfort at how casually we use the word “hate” nowadays? Indeed, to truly hate something is a serious matter and, as Christians, it is important to understand the weight it carries.

The revered Dominican theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas delves deeply into the true meaning of hatred in his masterpiece, the famed Summa Theologica. In the 29th Question of the Second Part of the First Part of the Summa, he explains that hatred arises from an inherent dissonance with what we perceive as destructive or harmful to ourselves or others. In more ways than one, Aquinas is stating the obvious: Hate is the opposite of love. But he adds an important supplemental observation: Whereas love is rooted in goodness and seeks harmony, hatred is rooted in evil and seeks disharmony.

It’s important to understand that evil, in this sense, is not merely the absence of good, but an active force that opposes well-being. Just as physical illness isn’t just the absence of health, but an active force that undermines the body’s balance, so too is moral or spiritual evil.

Aquinas’ clarifying points

Aquinas offers us further clarification of the concept of hatred:

The object of hatred is always evil, though sometimes misperceived. That is, we may dislike certain foods or find a person’s actions reprehensible, but unless there is a real element of harm, Aquinas wouldn’t consider it true hatred.

The intensity of hatred should correspond to the degree of evil. Hating a mosquito that carries a potential disease is somewhat understandable. But hating a person with the same intensity as a grave moral evil demonstrates a misalignment in our response. Something within our sense of justice is off.

We do have a duty to hate evil, but not people. This might be surprising to some, but people are inherently good because they are God’s creation. It’s what’s in them (mainly, the habits they have built) that has harmed them or could harm others that we must have an aversion to (and yes, Aquinas speaks in terms of duty:= we must detest evil).

The importance of discernment

In our social media-driven world, strong language is often used for emphasis. But Aquinas, always the voice of reason, would urge us to be precise when it comes to matters of the soul. Overusing a word like “hate” risks diluting our understanding of evil. More importantly, it runs counter to Jesus’ message of loving even our enemies.

The next time you’re tempted to label a minor inconvenience as something you “hate,” stop and consider the weight of that word. True evil deserves our righteous opposition. But ultimately, as followers of Christ, we’re called to temper that opposition with love and the hope of salvation – even when it’s hard. It is a matter of choosing the right thing in our actions and words to reflect a true understanding of the difference between unjustified hatred and righteous opposition to true evil.

Catholic LifestyleSaintsThomas Aquinas
Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.