In a newsletter yesterday I wrote about kenosis and self-love. It’s easy to talk about self-love, and hard to actually practice it. Here I want to go deeper into why it is can be hard to practice; more specifically, I want to think about the benefits of self-hatred.
It took me a long time to look at – to name and to own – self-hate. Highly self-critical? Sure. Unwilling to cut myself any moral, ethical or psychological slack? From time to time, absolutely. Wracked by guilt and shame for my very existence? Of course – who isn’t on a bad day?
It took a long time to be able to face the truth that in certain ways and at certain levels I hated myself, and that this hate was not an aberration but an embedded pattern of thought and behavior related to an underlying sense of failure that I was actively choosing.
The dream in which we find ourselves is lawful. If we drop a rock it falls; it doesn’t float in the air or grow wings and fly away. If we help someone cross the street we feel good. I can’t will myself into the body of a crow.
If we continually submit to a practice that hurts us, it is because on some level, we have decided that the hurt is outweighed by a benefit. So we have to find the benefit and evaluate it. Is it really worth the pain?
You may wonder why it is so crucial that you look upon your hatred and realize its full extent. You may also think it would be easy enough for the Holy Spirit to show it to you, and to dispel it without the need for you to raise it to awareness yourself (T-13.III.1:1-2).
When I do this work – when I raise self-hate to awareness – what do I learn?
- I am not allowed to love myself unless and until others confirm that I am lovable by loving me;
- Others will love me only when I am perfect;
- I am never – never ever ever – perfect;
- I hate myself for failing to be perfect; the hate signals to both you and me how seriously I take perfection, and how deeply committed I am to self-love. Why else would I be so disappointed? Please don’t give up on me!
I hate myself in order to – eventually, some day, with your blessing – love myself.
A Course in Miracles calls this lose-lose situation crucifixion.
The god of crucifixion demands that [the Son of God] crucify, and his worshippers obey. In his name they crucify themselves, believing that the power of the Son of God is born of sacrifice and pain (T-11.VI.5:4-5).
It is important to see this, and not to flinch from it. Self-hate is monstrous – the impulse is to flee or turn away. But if we simply attend it – if we practice nonviolence with it – then eventually the deal we are making is laid bare.
. . . in your disordered state of mind you are not afraid of fear. You do not like it but it is not your desire to attack that really frightens you. You are not seriously disturbed by your hostility. You keep it hidden because you are more afraid of what it covers (T-13.III.1:5-8).
Hate has a seductive logic. If it can’t get me to hate myself, then it will tempt me to hate others. For example, it might suggest that I am a failure because of the way my parents conditioned me. They’re the ones who are really responsible – let’s blame them. Let’s hate them.
If we don’t fall for it – if we refuse to buy hate’s argument that we hate ourselves or others, what happens?
You are not really afraid of crucifixion. Your real terror is of redemption (T-13.III.1:10-11).
In other words, the whole charade around self-hate is simply a defense againt my fear of love (e.g., T-13.III.2:3).
Look again at my four-part rationale for self-hate. There is an easy fix, right? I can leave the other out of it entirely and just love myself in all my messy and imperfect glory. I can literally – right here, right now – enjoy the love for which I so desperately long, even unto hating myself.
Something beautiful happens when we risk loving our own self, when we simply say no to hate, when we accept ourselves as wholly deserving of acceptance. We realize that God is not wrong about us, and that our place in Creation is neither an accident nor an error but rather the essence of our being.
It is very hard to hate what God so clearly loves, and – once glimpsed – it is impossible not see God’s love in all Creation.
. . .
A thread runs through this post – did you notice it? The thread is relationship.
Really, the thread is you.
In the beginning, I could not love myself without your permission, which permission I projected as an impossibly high standard I always fell shy of. Then I loved you because I loved myself, because in that love it was no longer possible to sustain any meaningful difference between us.
We are with each other always, both in crucifixion and resurrection. We are never alone, because we are never unloved. I’m not perfect and neither are you: but together we remind each other that love is.