Monday, August 17, 2015

Where God's Love Is Self-Hatred Is Nonexistent

Bolles Harbor

Over the years I have met many people who have hated themselves and thought themselves to be worthless. This includes people who are Christians. This often comes from parents who failed to express unconditional love towards them or who abandoned them. There is a lot of parental failure in America. Ad to this the cultural belief that personal worth is based on one’s accomplishments, and we see why many struggle with self-hatred.

Self-hatred is one side of a coin, the other being self-love. Self-love is a form of pride which thinks “I am really something (in the sense of being better than others).” Self-hatred is a form of shame which thinks “I am really nothing.” Both are forms of self-obsession. And both are spiritually cancerous things that harm spiritual formation and maturity.

Unfortunately, I have personal experience in hating the self. I have, at times, thought of myself as worthless. This is not a good place to be. It’s painful to beat on one’s own self. It feels more painful than having others hate me. How can this be overcome? 

Thomas Merton writes: "How are we going to recover the ability to love ourselves and to love one another? The reason why we hate one another and fear one another is that we secretly, or openly, hate and fear our own selves. And we hate ourselves because the depths of our being are a chaos of frustration and spiritual misery. Lonely and helpless, we cannot be at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we cannot be at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God."[1]

Here is a solution to self-hatred: Be at peace with God, and you will be at peace with self. Love God, and you will love self. This leads to the experience where, instead of beating one’s self for faults and failures, we rejoice in the greater purposes of God manifested in them. Dom Augustin Guillerand said, "God will know how to draw glory even from our faults. Not to be downcast after committing a fault is one of the marks of true sanctity."[2]

To be free of self-hatred know the love of God. To know that God loves you, and that your worth is not the same as your usefulness and your being-loved is not related to your failures and accomplishments, is to live a life of freedom. The more you dwell deeply in the presence of God, like a branch attached to Jesus the Vine, the more you hear God’s voice telling saying “John, I love you.” In that reality self-hatred is nonexistent. 

[1] Thomas Merton, The Living Bread; in Through the Year With Thomas Merton, p. 66.
[2] Dom Augustin Guillerand, in A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, p. 208.