The old adage is that you are your own worst enemy. You have the potential to achieve great things in life but you can’t get out of your own way. For most of your life you have engaged is self-destructive behavior. Just when things are moving in the right direction you find a way to screw it up.
If you are fortunate enough to be in a relationship, you know it will not last. Your jealous tendencies always return. You sense yourself being unreasonable but you can’t help it. Somewhere deep within, the critical voice reminds you that you don’t deserve to be loved. Before you can be hurt, you push people away. Or you remain in toxic relationships because you are afraid of being alone, and you fear not one else will love you.
You don’t like the person you see in the mirror. Your hair is not right. If only you could lose another ten pounds. Your nose is too big. You wish your teeth were whiter or straighter. You’re too dark. Too pale. Too short. You spend more than you know you should on clothes and accessories trying to cover and compensate.
You can’t say no. You take care of everyone else. Giving tirelessly to others, but there is never anything left for you. There’s no one to take care of you. You sense you’re being taken advantage of, but you can’t stop. You can’t find the courage or escape the guilt to say no.
These all too familiar stories are wide and varying, but they have a common source. It’s the condition known as self-hatred or more commonly, low self-esteem. It’s that critical, yet credible, voice that says you’re not worth. As the story goes, the only way out is to silence the voice and learn to love yourself. You must begin to confess it until you believe it. You are strong, valuable, and capable just as you are. You have to begin to put yourself first. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t begin take care of others. You have to take courage, look in the mirror and fall in love with who you see. That’s the typical story, but here are at least three reasons why this narrative is self-destructive.
It’s Not True
Galatians 5:14 (NAS): 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In this passage the Apostle is quoting Jesus who has quoted the Old Testament. It’s the second greatest commandment. I’ve heard some say this passage affirms the need to love oneself. It’s said that before you can begin love your neighbor, you have to first love yourself. But this passage seems to assume a love for one’s self.
Ephesians 5:28–29 (NAS): 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
Building on the second greatest commandment, the passage above calls husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. It then gives the biblical truth regarding the notion of self-hatred. No one ever hated his own flesh. If the bible is right, then it appears we have to look elsewhere for an answer to the described problems.
I believe the Bible is right. While we can be unhappy with the way we look, feel and act, I don’t think it rises to the level of self-hatred or even low self-esteem. More importantly, the love-thy-self prescription causes us to focus our love on the one person we already love the most; ourselves.
It Moves Us In The Wrong Direction
Philippians 2:3 (NASB95) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
The example the Lord set for us is to put others before ourselves. In fact, we are to consider them not just as important but more important than ourselves. The real challenge is not to love ourselves more, it’s to turn our affections from ourselves and towards our neighbor. Herein, is the real challenge and the real victory.
Notice in the Ephesians passage above that the husband who loves his own wife loves himself. The statement suggest that we only find love for ourselves when we, like Christ, love others and consider them more important than ourselves. Self-hatred then is manifested in a lack of love for others, not in a lack of love for ourselves. Isn’t that great? Isn’t it just like the infinitely wise God to give us what we need when we give what we want away?
Our Need for Self Love is Insatiable
So how then do we describe the self-destructive behaviors that masquerade as self-hatred and low self-esteem? I believe the problem is an insatiable lust for attention and affection. If anyone spends and inordinate amount of time thinking only of themselves, they will find much that they are not happy with. If we spend too much time looking at ourselves, we will not like what we see.
We are flawed people and if we are honest we will see the flaws. But there are no other kinds of people. In this world, to be a person is to be deeply flawed. And to seek beauty and perfection in a sin-sick and fallen world is to court futility and deep emotional wounds.
The answer then, is what the answer has always been. Trust God. The diagnosis of self-hatred and low self-esteem did not come from the Lord. It came from the culture. Though it seems wise, it’s not the wisdom from above. The desire to be pleased with ourselves is real, but it will only be satisfied when we look in the mirror and see a reflection of Christ. His example is to think more of others and less of ourselves. And to consider others more important than ourselves.