Question: "What does the Bible say about self-hatred?"
Answer: Self-hatred, to varying degrees, is not uncommon, but hating oneself is not what God would have for us. The world would tell us that the solution to self-hatred is self-love. It offers various ways to conjure up this love and acceptance for self. While some are healthy practices, none are permanent solutions that speak to the depths of the needs of our souls. The Bible, on the other hand, tells us that the solution to self-hatred is having an accurate view of God and of oneself in light of who God is.
First, let’s understand what causes self-hatred. Some may arrive at self-hatred because they consider themselves losers who lack certain talents or resources (intelligence, personal connections, money, and influence). Anyone who accepts the idealized standards of beauty, success, and power as portrayed in the mass media—and fails to live up to those standards—may arrive at the unreasonable conclusion that he or she is not worthy of love and begin to sink into self-hatred. People may hate themselves because of the things they have done in their pasts, or they might hate themselves because of things with which they are currently struggling, like addiction or unhealthy relationships. In short, self-hatred results from not living up to standards either we or others have set for acceptability. In our recognition that we cannot be perfect, we may descend into self-hatred.
Biblically speaking, we know we are sinners who are separated from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1–5). There is a standard that we will have failed to live up to and will never be able to live up to on our own (Romans 3:20). Apart from God, we are without hope. But this is not cause to hate ourselves. Rather, it is cause to turn to God and to rely on His grace. He has made a way of salvation! God created humanity in His image (Genesis 1:27). He loves us, and we reflect Him. Though sin marred this image, God did not abandon us. Instead, He sent His Son, Jesus, who, though remaining fully God, took on human flesh. Jesus lived a perfect life. He then died to pay the penalty for our sin, and He rose again to prove His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:3–7; Romans 5:6–11; Philippians 2:5–11). All who put their faith in Him are saved (John 3:16–18; Romans 10:9). This is cause for great rejoicing! When we become a redeemed child of God, there is no reason to hate ourselves.
If you have not been reconciled with God and brought into personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, that is the first step in overcoming self-hatred. But we know that even those who have trusted Jesus as their Savior can struggle with hatred of self. What is the solution for that? Having a biblical view of who God is and who you are. Romans 12:1–2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Committing our lives to God in action and thought—having a renewed and transformed mind and living our lives for God—is how we overcome self-hatred.
What are some of the things the Bible says about who God is? God is holy, just, gracious, merciful, and compassionate (1 Peter 1:16; Psalm 103:8–12; Hebrews 6:10; Colossians 3:25; Nehemiah 9:31). He is the Creator, all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:5). God’s ways are above ours, and His Word accomplishes what He intends (Isaiah 55:8–11). God’s promises are true. God is love, and He loves you (1 John 4:7–10). Self-hatred is simply not compatible with this truth.
It has been quipped that “God made you on purpose and for a purpose.” Your life has meaning. God gives us many instructions in His Word about His will for our lives and how we are to live. Things like regularly studying the Bible and coming to God in prayer help us understand who God is and His heart for us. Our love for God and our trust in Him grows. Consequently, self-hatred wanes.
When we obey God’s Word, we orient our lives to truth. This will naturally result in focusing less on ourselves, the world’s perceptions, and our own false idols. It will also result in our more often saying no to sin—which is important because sin is a primary cause of self-hatred. When we do sin, the Bible tells us that we can come to God and receive forgiveness and mercy (1 John 1:9; Hebrews 4:14–16). It assures us that sin has been defeated and that we need no longer live in it or in hatred of ourselves over it. We can hate the sin within us, but we do not hate ourselves because in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation and nothing that can separate us from God’s love (Romans 7—8). When our minds and lives are steeped in truth, there is no room for self-hatred.
Doing things like actively loving others in our words and deeds, as God calls us to, helps us have an accurate view of ourselves. Serving others can actually contribute to our own well-being and thus remove opportunity for self-hatred to arise. Spending time regularly with other believers and exercising our spiritual gifts within the body of Christ also helps us have a better view of God and of self. Fellow believers are our family, and they can help us reject notions of self-hatred. Obeying God, both in loving Him and in loving others, is life-giving (see John 15:1–11).
The solution to self-hatred is so much deeper than mere worldly self-love. A person who knows and trusts God derives his or her worth from God. That worth is unchanging. The words of Ephesians 1:3–14 are true of anyone who has been born again in Jesus Christ. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (verse 3), so self-hatred due to perceived lack of ability is unfounded. We have been chosen to be holy and blameless in His sight (verse 4), redeemed (verse 7), and forgiven (verse 7); we need not hate ourselves due to guilt over past sin. We have been predestined for adoption as sons (verse 5) and marked with the seal of the indwelling Holy Spirit (verses 13–14); we are not alone. God “lavished” “the riches” of His grace on us (verses 7–8). God’s love for us “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:17–19). When we understand this type of acceptance and position in God, there is simply no room for self-hate.