Friday, February 12, 2021

Where God's Love Is, Self-Hatred Is Not

(Bolles Harbor, Monroe)

I have met people who have hated themselves. They see themselves as worthless. 

This includes Christians. 

Self-hatred is one side of a coin, the other being self-love (as a form of pride). Self-love 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. Both are cancerous viewpoints that harm spiritual formation and maturity.

I have personal experience in self-hatred. I have, at times, thought of myself as worthless. This is not a good place to be. It’s painful to beat on oneself. 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 flagellating yourself for faults and failures, you 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. 

Know that God loves you, that your worth is not the same as your usefulness, and your being-loved is not related to your failures and accomplishments. This brings a life of freedom. 

The more I dwell deeply in the presence of God, like a branch attached to Jesus the Vine, the more I hear God’s voice telling saying, “John, I love you.” In that reality, self-hatred withers, and perishes. 

[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.

The best book on overcoming self-hatred is by Everett Worthington, Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Moving Free from the Past.