Websters defines hate as: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury b : extreme dislike or antipathy : loathing
One of the more complicated challenges I face personally as well as many of the peers I mentor is self-hatred. It usually takes the form of self-criticism or self-condemnation. It is that nagging voice that refuses to shut-up.
Aversion is repugnance. It is a desire to turn away. When we avoid someone because we’re angry or afraid of them or sense they’ve injured us it is signaling hatred.
My mom pickled cucumbers when I was a kid. I hated the smell. It was repulsive to me. I had an aversion to it, which explains why I ran outside and refused to return until the coast was clear of the stench. Sometimes we feel that way toward others. And sometimes we feel that way about ourselves.
The trouble is I can’t run away from me. I’m stuck in my own skin. Sometimes the hatred is because I’m afraid of myself. Experience with mania over the 33 years has left deep scars. Though manic experiences are now controlled by medication, the fear remains close by. Sometimes I’m angry at myself. To really complicate things, a lot of the time I’m angry with myself because I’m angry with myself and want to stop being angry with myself but feel powerless. I’m sealed in a room with boiling vinegar, no ventilation, no escape route.
Often fear and anger have self-injury as the source. We can injure ourselves a thousand different ways.
For those raised in a performance-based family this is a particular problem. Did your parents connect their love for you with your performance, your behavior, your goodness however they defined it? When I kept the rules I was a “good boy.” When I violated the rules (some I didn’t know existed until it was too late!) I was bad. Expressions of love came with contingencies. So, if my parents couldn’t love me because I didn’t meet the standard, then it didn’t take long before I didn’t love me for failing my parents. And this failure to love myself was, and still can be, a devastating injury to the self.
A lot of the peers I work with, or people I coach, loath themselves. Sometimes it is countered with substance abuse. Other times it results in attempts to snatch love from anyone who will give it (or at least appear to). There’s a craving for intimacy. At other times the person disconnects from their own emotions, thinking they are escaping the repugnant smell, ignoring the fact that at some point they are going to have to breathe.
The remedy is simple but difficult. It’s love–the prescription that heals hatred. Love does not run away but runs to. It is not angry but is understanding. It puts into context perceived self-injuries, accepts them for what they are, and forgives; lets it go. We get a double benefit because we also stop being angry at other people, cease being afraid, and stop attempting to injure the other.
I’m not an expert on any of this; I’m not a counselor and certainly not a psychologist. I trust Jesus. He didn’t study human behavior. He knew it. He knew what was real and passed it on to his apprentices. And one of them expressed it better than I can, and I’ll stop with this;
“My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God!” from The Message, 1 John.