1. Know that God doesn’t hate you.
Self-hatred is not God’s plan for your life. He is not calling you to focus on all the reasons why you’re odd or rubbish or stupid or shameful. He’s not waiting in the bushes with a long lens to capture your mistakes. He’s not scowling at the front of class or sniggering behind your back. He is not condoning the critical voiceover that punctuates your waking moments. Think of how you feel when someone criticises your best friend or your mum… the anger and the fierce protectiveness and the love. God hates your self hatred because He knows the truth about you; that He made you well. This truth is bigger than all the other ‘truths’ you’ve ever been told.
2. Crushing you with burdens is Satan’s tactic, not the Spirit’s
There’ll be areas in your life where you are called to change (as is every believer). But the Spirit challenges us with hope and the promise of forgiveness and grace and help. Where there’s false failure, He shows us the true standards of success. And where there’s real failure in our lives, He offers redemption. By contrast, the enemy tells us we’re already condemned and we must try harder — even though it doesn’t matter what we do, because we’ll only mess up. Satan crushes us and He leaves us there. The Spirit challenges us and lifts us to Jesus.
3. God is working with what is already there.
God does not need to replace or dilute you, to make you acceptable or ‘work.’ He’s thrilled with the essence, the core, the bits that combine to make you different from others. He put those bits together; and He doesn’t make junk.
4. Comparison is a killer.
Do not compare yourself to others (or you will despair). God sees what is going on in your life and He sees the challenges and the blessings and the hidden bits that everyone else might miss. (1 Cor 4:1-5). Tim Keller speaks about this here in this excellent talk (the comparison bit begins at 20:45). The Spirit works with where you are, not where others are.
5. You cannot redeem yourself.
Give up on rescuing yourself. You can’t. And trying to do so will drive you into further despair.
6. You cannot be perfect.
Give up on a perfect life that is free from struggle. Jesus says we will have trouble in this world – but He is with us in it.
7. Be shaped by Scripture.
New kitchen units or face fillers or perfect grades or the hairstyle that will change your life – we can spend our life chasing them, and they just make us hungrier for more. Pray for the things God says matter. Focus on what Jesus says is true and real and beautiful (especially Him!) And hang out with folks who value Him too.
Open up to someone you love and trust. Don’t let them jump in too early with “Oh don’t be silly, we love you.” They should let you “be silly” and pour out your “silly” self-loathing. But then, let them reflect back the truth of how they see you — about how God sees you. Pray that you will be able to accept it; and keep talking.
9. Remind yourself of the gospel.
We are all messed-up. All sinners, all unable to rescue ourselves. But God loves us. He sent His Son to save us, even at our worst. And in Him, we are spotless.
10. Boldly approach the eternal throne
We come to God not because of our performance or abilities or mistakes, but because of Christ. And in Christ we have a Father who loves us with the same love with which He loves His Son.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 10:14-16)
So, let’s talk to this Lord. Let’s spend time in the presence of One who feels sympathy for us, and keep on approaching Him, boldly and with hope. Through Jesus, we can learn to be who we are — who God sees us to be. We can begin to speak back to self-hatred and to lies. We can shelter forever in the warmth of His unchanging love.