A lesson from Ukraine: Don’t let anger destroy us from the inside!

José Maria C.S. André

Almost every country in the world adhered to Pope Gregory XIII’s reform of the calendar at the end of the 16th century, but Orthodox Christians express their opposition to Rome by continuing to follow the previous calendar. For this reason, most countries celebrated Easter two weeks ago, while the Orthodox churches celebrated it only last Sunday.

On that Orthodox Easter day, which is so important to the Russian people and to most of the Ukrainians, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, broadcast a video message addressed to his country:

“Our hearts overflow with enormous anger, our souls burst with intense hatred for the occupiers and all that they have done. Don’t let anger destroy us from the inside! Turn it into accomplishments on the outside, turn it into a generous force to defeat the powers of evil.”

The idea is admirable, especially that phrase, “Don’t let anger destroy us from the inside!”

Indeed, a bomb can hurt and even kill, but hate of others corrodes from within and destroys the person. Few world leaders realize the danger of hatred — some ideologies even cultivate it — and yet it causes more serious disasters than a nuclear bomb. Zelensky, in a circumstance so favorable to other concerns, understands that a just society cannot be founded on aggressiveness.

God’s gaze is full of tenderness and mercy, but we, faced with evil, easily allow feelings of antipathy to overpower us. Christ, the God-man himself, gave us the outrageous Christian novelty of loving all men, even enemies! At first, many pagans considered this attitude nonsensical, but then this new way of looking at things disarmed them, because it showed them a characteristic sign of the magnitude of God’s graciousness. The martyrs died without a hint of hostility, not even with heroic stoicism; they died praying for those who killed them. And by that prayer, they accomplished the greatest revolution ever.

Ancient society believed in violence, in money and in all the powers of this world. Christians confronted them with the weapon of contradiction and, unexpectedly, humility overcame pride, goodness destroyed evil, with a victory that looks like a miracle.

Today many still cling to the criteria of ancient paganism, but they themselves will be surprised when the courage of the weak will overcome them.

It is easy to succumb to the insidiousness of evil in any of its forms. We reject injustice and feel entitled to slander those who promote it; when we dislike someone, it seems logical to despise that person; we suffer insults and want revenge; and even the success of others feeds envy. The subtle seduction of evil is that the individual, thinking he or she has good motives, allows himself or herself to be destroyed from within by hatred. So President Zelensky is quite right when he appeals to Ukrainians: “Don’t let anger destroy us from within!”

The poison of hatred can seep into any of us. Even some, who fought nobly to defend human dignity, traumatised by the crimes of abortion, euthanasia, etc., suffered so much injustice that they let in a tiny grudge, thirsting for revenge, and it causes them to stray from the path of God. It is so difficult to keep the heart pure from disordered affections!

The most characteristically hate-based ideology is Marxism. Karl Marx supposed that it was a scientific observation that hatred was the engine of history, and that, in this sense, progress would consist in a surge of anger among men that would lead to them killing each other. On the day when some succeed in completely crushing their adversaries, until none of them is left alive, they will suddenly attain indescribable satisfaction and, along with this overflow of pleasure, also peace and all delights. None of this is true, much less is it a scientific law, even though hatred sometimes seems omnipotent. It never is. It can kill, it can steal, it can destroy. Yet Jesus assured us: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul!” (Mt 10:28; cf. Lk 12:4).

May the Ukrainians be able to defend themselves against the Russians without letting their anger destroy them from within. And may the world help the Ukrainians to defend themselves and learn from them not to let themselves be poisoned by hatred.