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Self-Hatred: That Dark Indulgence

To indulge, by definition, is to "allow oneself to enjoy the pleasure of" something. And it really can be anything. We tend to think of it in terms of chocolate or entertainment, but the rules are much broader than that. In fact, we can indulge in things that, on the surface, may seem completely unpleasant. Self-hatred is one of them.

In a recent Sarah Young devotion on judging, I was struck hard with a warning against "indulg[ing] in self-hatred." It may seem counter-intuitive—who would willingly practice self-hatred as an indulgence, a form of pleasure? But as someone who struggles with this pitfall, the message could not have been clearer.

At the end of the day, pride can take two forms: one is the concept of elevating oneself, glorifying one's abilities or gifts or importance to a disproportionate, consuming degree. That's probably the pride we think of most readily when we hear the word. But there's another kind of pride that is significantly more stealthy, and equally unhealthy: the kind that turns our thoughts inward and consumes us entirely with ourselves—for good or ill.

In my current work in progress, my protagonist struggles with self-doubt and insecurity that sometimes manifest themselves as self-hatred. On the surface, that can look like humility. But as he learns, and as I've learned through him, it's really just its own kind of pride. Because who are we to examine ourselves and tell God He screwed up when He wired us? Who are we to dedicate hours upon hours to ourselves, our own flaws and shortcomings, when we could be putting that time to use in serving God, and allowing Him to work with those flaws? Who are we to pretend we're atoning for our failures just by feeling horribly, terribly, awfully bad about them?

Self-hatred isn't a solution to anything. We can convince ourselves that we're covering our sins by crying about them, but we're not. Crying doesn't change us. Repenting and going to God and fixing our thoughts on Him changes us. Crushing ourselves under forced humility isn't humility at all—it's just a form of self-torture that once again fixes all our focus on ourselves instead of God.

If this is something you struggle with, I completely understand and I would love to hear from you. It's a slippery slope, and one we're not often aware of because, from a distance, it takes humility's shape. But if we just spent less time wallowing in self-hatred, and directed that energy into Kingdom work, I think we'd find a lot less to hate about ourselves, and a lot more to love about God.

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