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What does the Bible say about how to stop hating yourself?

stop hating yourself

Self-loathing (or hating oneself) is a serious problem of how one perceives himself before the eyes of God (if this person is a believer). It is yet a more serious issue for someone who does not believe in God, for this person is left to use his or her own standard of judging one’s right or wrong actions, which is exactly what Satan tempted Adam and Eve toward in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4–5) and what led to God’s people straying from His ways during the time of the judges (Judges 21:25).

Why do some people hate themselves and get stuck in a pattern of self-hate? Let’s make one thing clear: someone who believes in Jesus does not have to hate himself. The believer in Jesus should hate sin and seek repentance and forgiveness, based on God’s grace. The believer will still sin every day, but to dwell on the failure (past or present) without considering the abundant grace and mercy Jesus extends is to risk falling into a miry bog of despair.

The apostle Paul wrestled with sin throughout his life, as outlined in Romans 7. He concludes that section of the letter with, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 7:24–25a; 8:1, ESV) Paul, like us, wrestled with sin all his life. If he were to continue dwelling on his past sin (which for him included persecuting the church, see 1 Corinthians 15:9), he would surely find himself in a trap of hating himself.

Some hate themselves for committing a heinous sin in their past. The forgiveness available in Christ should bring hope to those who hate themselves. Scripture says that God completely takes away our sin through His forgiveness and mercy (Psalm 103:12) and that, when we confess our sins, He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). When God can forgive people like David, who committed murder and adultery, and Paul, who violently persecuted the early church, God can forgive and show grace to anyone who turns to Him in repentance and trust. It does not matter how grievous the sin. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). Being confident of God’s forgiveness, we can seek to restore relationships that were broken and try to make amends for what we have done (Luke 19:8).

Some hate themselves because of their part in a tragedy that they feel they could have prevented. “If only I had done __________” or “If only I had not done __________” is their regret. This is a painful and challenging situation to be in, as we can all reflect on certain situations and wish we had made different decisions. The sovereignty of God should bring hope to the hurting in such cases. Scripture says that God is completely sovereign and rules over all things (Psalm 135:5–6; Proverbs 21:1). He alone has complete power to give life and to take it away (Job 1:21). And God can bring good even out of the worst of situations (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20). Satan would have us dwell on how we could have done things differently, but this type of speculation is unproductive and does not help us grow in our love for God and for our neighbor. God would have us cease the speculation and trust in Him.

Some hate themselves because of perceived personality quirks or their own physical appearance. They see themselves as weird, awkward, or abrasive around others, negatively affecting friends and acquaintances. Or they view themselves as just plain ugly. The design of God should bring hope. Scripture says that God is the One who made us. Every part of our physical bodies is of God’s design and under His care (see Matthew 10:30). Our personalities, too, are given by God. God knows us better than anyone—better even than we know ourselves (Psalm 139:1–6, 23–24)! And He loves us. As we allow the Holy Spirit to control us, our personalities will be shaped and used by God Himself. And our physical appearance will matter less. When we set our hope on the glories of our heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20), we can have perfect peace.

The key to how to stop hating yourself is to focus less on self and more on Christ. The lyrics to this simple chorus are a good reminder:
“Let’s forget about ourselves / And magnify the Lord and worship Him” (Ballinger, B., Sound III, Inc., admin by Universal Music Corp., MCA Music Publ., 1976). Jesus can pull us out of the miry bog of self-hate and put a song of praise to God in our mouths (Psalm 40:1–3). Let’s meditate on Jesus’ perfect love for us (1 John 4:17–18), His never-ending faithfulness and commitment to love His people (Romans 8:38–39), His perfect provision for and protection of His sheep (Psalm 23), and His perfect atonement for all of our sins (Colossians 2:13–14). We can have peace as we set our minds on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3). We have great reason to rejoice, for, if we trust in Jesus, our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

Timothy Keller, in his book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, describes the person who has learned to focus less on self and more on what Christ has done: “A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person. The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself” (2017, 10 Publishing, p. 33).

Let us turn our eyes from the sinful state of our flesh and look to Him who has conquered sin and death for us (Colossians 3:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:57).

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What does the Bible say about how to stop hating yourself?
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This page last updated: February 13, 2024