Never allow hatred to grow in your heart; eventually, it will blind you.

This thought came rushing to my mind after I had watched the behavior of some who attended President Trump’s State of the Union Address. In case you missed it, there was an entire group of Democrats and members of the Congressional Black Caucus who refused to applaud recent accomplishments our country has made. Indifferent to the plight of grieving parents and a North Korean survivor, they also refused to applaud when President Trump honored Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, who took a bullet from a gunman and almost died. Sadly, a 12-year-old boy who placed flags on the graves of soldiers on Veterans Day also was snubbed.

Hatred is sneaky — because it can seem justified. It can be instantaneous or build slowly through self-interest, deception, pride, jealousy and sometimes, one’s own guilt and fear. It was hatred that caused the murders and tortures that occurred in concentration camps. It is hatred that bullies or kills those who believe differently. Indeed, hatred causes blindness.

People give many reasons to support/have abortions, but I believe it is hatred of Truth that recently prevented the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act from passing the Senate. This bill would have prevented babies from being aborted after 20 weeks because they feel pain. How can this be anything but wrong? Anything but blindness? All but two Republicans voted to pass this bill, and all but three Democrats voted against it.

President Trump denounced this decision because it “rejects scientific facts,” and bemoaned the truth that “the U.S. is among seven of 198 nations, including China and North Korea, who allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

Many would argue hate has nothing to do with abortion; yet in the same breath, would admit Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini were filled with hate when they collectively killed several million people. That number pales in comparison to the more than 60 million babies killed in the U.S. since Roe vs. Wade and 1.5 billion worldwide, just since 1980. I believe our world hates the truth about abortion because we’ve allowed and condoned this atrocity so long that owning up to it, correcting it and living through the pain of acknowledgement seems, for many, too high a price to pay.

This blindness is also apparent in the irony of those who valiantly fight for the rights of “Dreamers” (children of illegal immigrants) but refuse to protect unborn babies who are brutally slain while they dream. The moment we turned our hearts to stone and legalized killing in the womb was the moment the devil knew he could convince us that any wrongdoing could be justified. Our wayward nation saves the animals, fights for equality and against injustice and oppression, but obstinately ignores babies who cry out in pain during abortion.

There are no words to describe this injustice — much like the injustice done to Jesus.

When Pilate brought Him before the chief priests, pride and jealousy turned into hatred, prompting them to shout, “We have no king but Caesar!” and how blinded by fearful hatred was the crowd that day, who dared shout, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

Read those declarations again. Let them sink in.

What terrible deed had Jesus done to procure such hatred? Nothing. He was all good — He healed their sick, gave sight to the blind and drove out demons. Yet, though they could see his good deeds with their eyes, they were blinded by the hatred in their hearts. Still today, we crucify him with our rejection or hatred of His holy precepts — His Love.

We have all fallen short. Any good in us is because God created us for love and loved us first. The devil is the real enemy. He is at work through every divisive, destructive activity and the source of all evil and blindness. Hypocrites and haters can be found in any political party, any church, anywhere. Only God’s love and obedience can keep our eyes and hearts open to love the sinner but hate only the sin. It’s Christ’s love that prompts us to pray for presidents we don’t care for, politicians we don’t agree with, and people who sometimes make our lives miserable. There’s something about being on our knees in humility and surrender that helps us remember: But for the grace of God, go I.

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday — the start of Lent for Catholics and many Christians. Some will feel disappointed and might complain that the day set apart to celebrate love will require fasting and reflection on Christ’s passion and death, completely missing the truth that there is no greater love than what Jesus did for us. Furthermore, it was in imitation of Christ, that Saint Valentine refused to renounce his faith and Christianity and was executed on Feb. 14.

The more we love, the more we push out hate. God’s love conquers and heals all, including hurting souls involved with abortion and all sins that threaten to destroy body and soul. With each positive step our country takes, we must acknowledge these good things are happening only with God’s help.

This Valentines Day, say a prayer for continued conversion of our country. This is the powerful force of love that will make America great, and real love increase.

Elizabeth Schmeidler is a Christian author from Hays.