Self-Hatred as a Barrier to One’s Calling

The temptation to define ourselves by our sins, and especially by our worst sins, is just that—a temptation.

Forgiveness is a difficult topic for most of us, and it is usually focused on the pardon of those who have wronged us, whether maliciously or negligently. We don’t typically give much thought to that other forgiveness.

Each of us knows the weight of our own sins, for regret can be a searing pain. What about forgiving ourselves of our past offenses? How necessary might that be? If we have attempted to make amends to those whom we have wronged, and we have taken the incident to God via sacramental confession, is there more to be done?

Some individuals attempt to justify a position of lifelong self-loathing, long after they have been forgiven by God and even by neighbor. That cannot be a Christian position. It would deny the Christian message of redemption and renewal, which lies at the core of Christ’s sacrifice. 

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In conforming our understanding to doctrine, we must admit that we cannot save ourselves and then accept that He did. If one is to walk out of the darkness and into the light, he cannot see himself as a shadow therewithin. To the contrary, he gains the potential to be an instrument of that light, an example of Christ’s saving power, and a reflection of Jesus in the world. We all have the potential to refract His light differently, but nonetheless, the world becomes brighter when we do. 

The temptation to define ourselves by our sins, and especially by our worst sins, is just that—a temptation. Such is the reason that Satan is so often referred to as The Accuser. We are not defined by our sins but by the baptism that made us children of God. If we refuse to forgive ourselves, then we are rendered less able to serve God as He wishes to be served. For example, how do we “love our neighbor as ourselves” if we do not love ourselves as children of God, or, even worse, engage in self-hatred?

One of Martin Luther’s errors was to proclaim, “To love God is at the same time to hate oneself and to know nothing but God.” That’s a perversion of the concept of self-denial, and it’s one that too many people hold, regardless of whether they know its origin. While we should hate our sin and engage in spiritual mortification through fasting and penances, that we might better unite ourselves to God, that’s not the same as self-hatred. To hate oneself is to deny each person’s unique value and dignity—by denying your own. You cannot better serve the Creator by despising that which He has created. It’s an incongruent worldview.

If we do not forgive ourselves, then we implicitly deny the merit of Christ’s ultimate and complete sacrifice. We say, “My sin is greater than His capacity to redeem me.” It’s an embrace of a kind of covert but damaging pride. It thus hovers next to despair.  If we do not forgive ourselves, then we implicitly deny the merit of Christ’s ultimate and complete sacrifice.Tweet This

We can look at the saints, from St. Paul to St. Ignatius of Loyola and beyond, and see lives of sin that were reformed by their conversion. They became new men by an unparalleled embrace of the cross, such that they are now venerated by the faithful. Yet, it seems quite a different thing to not only follow the saints in trying to live contritely but following them in the embrace of their conversion. 

What must it have been like to be St. Paul, for example, and to know that you had persecuted Christians, followers of the true God? What an unbearable weight on one’s conscience, after coming to the realization that the Christians were right and just in resisting his oppression. On its surface, it would seem impossible to live after that. 

How could you look in the mirror or get out of bed in the morning? I think it’s the wrong question. Our question cannot be “how” but “why.” It is only with an adequate “why” that St. Paul could go on to live his conversion. Christ’s love is an answer to the why. Christ’s forgiveness should be enough for our own. And without that acceptance, St. Paul would never have fulfilled his duty. He would not have been the witness to the Gentiles that he was, nor the most prolific writer of the New Testament.

Had he refused his duty by not embracing Christ’s forgiveness, the ripples of absence throughout the ages would have been far beyond his understanding thousands of years ago, as is the case with so many of the saints who had stories of redemption. In many of those accounts, it is a past that God used, transformed, and redeemed, to produce people of impact and healing among His faithful. If St. Paul had chosen the path of self-loathing, he would have rejected the plan that God had for him. Our cooperation with grace must encompass the recognition of God’s power to transform and redeem. 

St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle tell us that magnanimity is “the jewel of all the virtues.” It is the aspiration of one’s spirit to great things, extensio animi ad magna. In the words of Josef Pieper, “A person is magnanimous if he has the courage to seek what is great and become worthy of it.” How can one embrace that virtue—to reach for what is great, that he might glorify the Lord—if he is mired in self-hatred? He cannot.

We must orient our lives to live our conversions, to accept the gift of forgiveness, and to give the only gift that we can to God—that of our lives in service, reaching beyond our pain and our past to become the people He wishes us to be.


  • Sarah Cain

    Sarah Cain, known as The Crusader Gal, is a political and cultural commentator who makes regular videos about the decline of the West, and she writes Homefront Crusade. Originally from England, she lauds the traditional values that have so far prevented America from succumbing to the darkness that envelops Europe.

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