In part one of this blog post, we identified one of the spiritual pandemics of the modern age as “self-loathing” – that nagging feeling that I don’t measure up, and I hate myself for it. As Christians, we are not immune to this malady of the soul. I talked about how for years, when I messed up on something, I would call myself “an idiot”. But where did that self-talk come from? In my case, I realized that it came from my childhood, as my father inadvertently gave me that name when he would lose his patience with me as he was trying to teach me how to work with wood in the garage, and I would pound a nail in crooked. “You idiot!” he would exclaim. The name stuck. Parents have a unique power to name their children. Be sure to name them well. But I’ve also realized that my episodes with self-loathing as an adult Christian more often come from my own pride. When I see my faults, failures and weaknesses, I get down on myself instead of taking them to God and allowing his unconditional love and belief in me to be the steady source of confidence and self-esteem my soul craves. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:9-10, 16) I remember the day Lisa and I were walking on campus as an engaged couple almost 35 years ago. She told me that what gave her confidence each day was to “know and rely on the love God has for us (vs. 16).” The conversation stuck. And it helps me to this day. So, how do we grab the extended hand of Jesus to pull us out of the downward spiral of self-loathing? 1) Recognize where self-loathing comes from I’ve identified a couple of options already: childhood (or adult) trauma, and our own pride. But whatever the means, the source is always the same: “The Enemy” (Luke 10:19) - Satan himself. We read in part one of this blog how Satan accuses us before God; in fact, the name, Satan means “accuser”. So, accusing us in order to make us feel like failures is one of his prime weapons. We’re in a spiritual war! But our enemy is sneaky. Instead of meeting us on the open battlefield, he’s snuck into our camp at night and poisoned our hearts. So, we’re too sick to go out to the battlefield, but lay ill in the campsite, weakened by the poison of self-hatred and self-loathing. That’s the first step – recognize your enemy is actively trying to poison your heart. 2) Remind yourself of your true value and worth to God We know the value of jewelry by the price we are willing to pay for it. What’s your value in God’s sight? “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) Our Heavenly Father redeemed (purchased) us with something considerably more valuable than silver or gold – “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (vs. 19)”. That’s how valuable you are to God. Think about that. In a discussion about not eating meat sacrificed to idols if it causes your brother in Christ to stumble, Paul highlights the value of the individual by saying it this way: “Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15).” That’s who we are: people “for whom Christ died”. That’s pretty valuable. More evidence of our intrinsic value is found in the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God himself (Genesis 1:26-27). The least of mankind are image-bearers of God. How much more those of us who have been made right with God through the blood of Christ and are now reconciled to him (Romans 5:9-11). 3) Let your identity in Christ be the basis of your self-esteem – not your outward appearance or accomplishments To be "in Christ" means that God no longer sees our imperfections; He sees the righteousness of His own Son (Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 8:12). Only "in Christ" is our sin debt cancelled, our relationship with God restored, and our eternity secured (John 3:16-18, 20:31). (GotQuestions.org) And that’s why we can be secure and assured even on our bad days – because our security and significance come from our position in Christ and our adoption as his children – not our ever-changing behavior or appearance. 4) Consistently repent of pride in order to accept God’s love and forgiveness We are sinners who let God and ourselves down regularly. And this is where it’s crucial to learn how to deal with our sin, our temporal failures and shortcomings, properly. If we insist on an over-inflated view of ourselves and refuse to accept that we are flawed people living in a flawed world, then we will never escape the endless cycle of failure, disgrace, and discouragement. But if we accept the biblical means God has provided for our continual cleansing, healing and renewal, then our failures will not lead to disgrace and discouragement - but instead to ever-increasing humility, gratitude and joy based on the grace of God that he lavishes on us (Ephesians 1:7). “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:5-8) For Christians, God’s forgiveness through Christ is like windshield wipers that constantly wipe the sin away from our hearts. Or better yet, it’s like a roof over our heads, since we don’t move in and out of grace, but we simply “stand” in it (Romans 5:1-2). Yes, there is a place for “godly sorrow” when Christians sin (2 Corinthians 7:8-11), but it is distinguished from “worldly sorrow”: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in
salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks
repentance, results in spiritual death (vs. 10, NLT).” “Godly sorrow” leads us away from sin and leaves no regret – only rejoicing in the gifts of repentance and forgiveness we have in Christ; whereas “worldly sorrow” is simply getting down on ourselves and wallowing in self-pity. Putting it all together It’s time to accept that there’s only one hero in this story – and that’s Jesus. The rest of us are broken people living in a broken world, whose only basis for security and confidence is the grace of God in which we stand. Our enemy will always accuse us, but we must not allow his lies to poison our hearts. Remember the value of your soul to God, the high price that he paid to reconcile you to himself in Christ, and that your sins are continually washed away by his cleansing blood. When you sin, let your godly sorrow quickly lead you to repentance, forgiveness, and joy – not wallowing in the self-pity of worldly sorrow. Let’s be done with self-loathing and self-hatred! It has no place in the life of a Disciple of Jesus and must be crucified regularly. Let’s be humbly confident, rock-solidly secure, and graciously kind – to our own hearts and every other precious heart that God entrusts to us. Your turn This is a great subject to talk to your circle of friends about: -What struck you from this blog series? -How can you relate to self-loathing? -Where do you think yours comes from? -What helps you to overcome it?