Isn’t it interesting how a few words from a book we read or a movie we watch can form themselves into a life lesson? Years ago I was reading a book about American history by the eminent historian Paul Johnson. In describing several famous figures, Johnson commented that they were “good haters.” The words slammed into me. Thankfully, I was not a hater at the time nor did I have that bent of soul. Yet I remember how those two words painted a lasting picture in my mind.It was as though I could suddenly visualize the tracks of hate and bitterness in a man’s soul. I could imagine his inner being constricting as he repeatedly recoiled from those who had wronged him. I could almost feel him hating from the darkness of a haunted cave, rehearsing his offenses as though there were no nobler thoughts in the world for him to ponder.These images reinforced what I had already been taught by fine leaders: a good man has to constantly push himself toward big heartedness, has to force his inner being towards largeness and generosity. Otherwise, life presses him toward smallness. His offenses and disappointments start to define him. He becomes bitter, angry, and vengeful. In his downward spiral, he loses great chunks of himself.

If I hadn’t observed all this for myself, I would know it from Paul’s writings in the New Testament. In his famous list of the common characteristics of the fallen nature, Paul includes hatred, discord, jealousy, dissensions, and factions. (Galatians 5:19-20, NIV)  In other words, a man untouched by God, yet un-changed by grace, is naturally “a good hater.” It is why we need the love of God poured into our hearts. It is why we need to battle against the bitter bent of our souls.

We need to “go large.” Give sacrificially.  Forgive instantly. Love broadly. Inspire extravagantly. Invest unreservedly. Honor unashamedly.

I’ve known men—know them now—who are good haters. In the better angels of their nature, they are some of the greatest beings I’ve ever seen. Given to hate, they make themselves absurd. In some cases, they’ve made themselves insane.

I’m determined to push toward largeness of soul. Join me. Help me. Help each other.  It’s the essential fight for the best of life, the best of what we are made to be.

Have a good weekend.

Stephen