At least, I do not remember experiencing it consciously.
It was but a word.
Anger there was a-plenty, for sure - burning, scorching anger, yes. Directed towards me often enough, yes. Directed away from me, towards others, too, more often than I would like to say, yes.
There was mockery I felt. Denigration, humiliation, meanness towards me, yes. And my own meanness, too, I am ashamed to say, invariably towards those I loved the most.
I was granted experience of all those unpleasant things.
Hate remained a word that belonged with Stalin, Hitler and Apartheid, in a somewhat abstract yonder.
Until somebody robbed me of my own agency. That gave birth to hate inside me towards that person.
There were good reasons why I was robbable, why I was vulnerable in that way.
I was compelled to endure the hate. The person who had engendered it had so much leverage on me that I was defenceless. I could neither fight nor flee. I had to endure this person's abuse of their power over me. I knew I was choc-a-bloc with hate, but I did not know what to do with it, where to put it, how to handle it. The hate was simply there. Seismic.
For months I was near-catatonic with disbelief and trauma. I would lie in bed, wanting, intending to rise, but unable to do so - like a person who has had a severe stroke and whose brain is the only part of them still functioning, but with no more muscle power at all. I prayed fervently not to be destroyed by my own bitterness.
After some years, I broke down in such oceans of tears, which would not stop, that my husband (still living at that time) finally bundled me off to a few sessions of therapy. The therapist nearly gave up on me: during one session, my only speech was salt water and sobs.
The poet in me does not wonder that the glaciers are melting, or that the world appears to be halting. My late husband used to say that a woman's primal feelings are not trifles.
While the therapist did help to enable me to continue through each day, somehow, I never had the opportunity fully to process what had happened. Fortunately, the leverage the person had on me disappeared in time and my experience of hating my abuser passed on into the past.
Until Covid-19 came along with its myriad revelations.
Until those poisonous species of mushroom, called Mipo (Minister of Police) and Micoogota (Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs), emerged out of the forest deeps.
Suddenly, my hate re-surfaced. Again, my agency over my own life, and private decisions that are nobody's business, were being denied me to make.
I was, this time, given opportunity to examine my hatred. I discovered, interestingly, that hatred was not a fire in me. A sure force, yes, but not a passion that would cause me to take reckless action.
Though it crackled, it had no warmth.
It did not live in the heart.
I paid attention.
I went to 'Head Office' - as retired priest and fellow Ecca poet Cathal Lagan likes to refer to the Divine Being - and asked, "Why, please, protect me from this hate!"
'Head Office', who had lately become somewhat casual with me, replied, "Just note it. Stick with it a bit."
So I did. I wallowed in my hatred. My Beloved endured rants, and a few trusted friends were witnesses via email, in which I freely articulated my most vicious intentions towards Mipo and Micoogota, the poisonous mushrooms. Intentions I could, of course, not fulfil, because ... because why?
The wallowing led to a lovely break in the dam wall of shame, which had contained the hate, and what flowed was illumination.
Hatred, in the way it worked in and on me, is not a feeling. It is a decision. A judgment. It comes from the body in the last parts of the digestive system, that part where expulsion of what is of no use to the body happens.
Hatred tells you not only WHAT YOU ARE NOT, but also, perhaps even more importantly, WHAT YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE.
I NEVER want to be somebody who orders other people about!
I NEVER want to be somebody who abuses her power over vulnerable people!
I NEVER want to abuse my power!
I HATE all that which I DO NOT WANT TO BE!!!!!
Hate is an indicator of what is disposable to your own heart, body, mind and soul. That rejected 'excrement' may be sweet fodder to those whose hearts, bodies, minds and souls are completely different from your own. (There are many people, as we are sadly witness to so numerously right now, who get great pleasure from ordering others about, who get pleasure from abusing their power, etc. etc.) Your hate is simply a sign to YOU of what YOU are NOT.
It is, simply, information about your self.
That, then, is my discovery of the purpose of hate.
PS. I subsequently discovered that in Luke 14:26, Jesus uses the word similarly, to mean not a dangerous passion, but a decisive - the key word is decisive - move away from all the roles one plays on the stage of life, in favour of the absolute priority of serving him, that is to say, serving the power of divine love.
Mushroom images credit to: https://www.mushroomguru.co.za/