I have just begun reading Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis. In a chapter on the cursing psalms, I ran across the following passage:
“It seemed to me that, seeing in them hatred undisguised, I saw also the natural result of injuring a human being. . . . Just as the natural result of throwing a lighted match into a pile of shavings is to produce a fire—though damp or the intervention of some more sensible person may prevent it—so the natural result of cheating a man, or “keeping him down” or neglecting him, is to arouse resentment; that is, to impose upon him the temptation of becoming what the Psalmists were when they wrote the vindictive passages. He may succeed in resisting the temptation; or he may not. If he fails, if he dies spiritually because of his hatred for me, how do I, who provoked that hatred, stand? For in addition to the original injury I have done him a far worse one. I have introduced into his inner life, at best a new temptation, at worst a besetting sin. If that sin utterly corrupts him, I have in a sense debauched or seduced him. I was the tempter.”
My first thoughts were about how this is acted out on the world stage. We are quick to condemn violent protest—we emphasize free will, and by golly, no one has to shoot a gun, throw a bomb, burn down the neighborhood, and so on. To counter with talk about environment or policies that create a repressive environment will get you labeled a terrorist-loving antipatriotic bleeding heart liberal. I like the way Lewis puts it. “If he dies spiritually because of his hatred for me, how do I, who provoked that hatred, stand?”
And then it is played out in human relationships every day, between husbands and wives, parents and children, coworkers, neighbors.