“I am not okay.” It’s the first thing the voice of self-hatred says. While it takes a hundred different forms, it always says the same thing—you are lacking.
I’m a failure.
I’m way too messed up.
I’m a disappointment to everyone.
I am worthless.
I am weak and pathetic.
Many of us are familiar with the voice of self-hate. It shows up amid the small talk and self-talk of our daily life. We’re familiar with it because it comes from within, and it inevitably comes out.
Self-hate’s strategy is subtle and calculated. It takes advantage of one of the most fundamental things about us—our social nature. Relationships are our life context. People are our environment. We live before the eyes of others, and they live before ours. We take our cues from them, and they from us. We evaluate, and we are evaluated. We size up, and we are sized up. We compare, and we are compared. Within our desperate striving to be “okay,” “acceptable,” “adequate,” “legitimate,” “worthwhile,” and “satisfactory,” self-hate spins a seductive lie—our thoughts about others and their thoughts about us are the ones that really count. We are tempted to believe this and live out of it.
Thankfully, this is not the true arrangement of things. We do not live in a world where our evaluation of ourselves and others is ultimate. God is there. God too is our environment, and we also live before his eyes. We live before the maker and sustainer of all things. We live before the one who has absolute authority. He too evaluates and sizes up. He declares and announces reality.
Liberation from the clutches of self-hate and the endless striving to be “okay” is available only in our relationship to God through Christ. Liberation begins by giving ear to what the loving voice of God says about us. We don’t have to guess how he thinks or feels. In the Scriptures, he tells us clearly. Authoritatively. Repeatedly. Lovingly. He is not fickle or flippant or shifty. He does not change like the shifting of a shadow, nor does he show partiality or favoritism.
Just as self-hate zeros in on our identity (“I am a ____”), so too the loving voice of God has something to say about who we are. Whereas the voice of self-hate proclaims, “I am a piece of garbage or disgusting and unwanted,” the voice of God announces,
I want you; you belong to me. (Ps 18:19)
I love you, and my love does not have strings attached. (Deut 7)
I cherish you. (Ps 8)
I will do what is needed to save you. (John 3:16)
I have given you a true and lasting name. (1 John 3:1; Isa 43:1)
In no uncertain terms, the voice of God tells us that we are perpetually and substantially “okay.” This does not mean our failures and sins and limitations and struggles are not real or insignificant, but rather, despite the presence of all of these things in our lives, our “okay-ness” does not change. Our spiritual status is not up for debate. It is permanently established through Christ.
The voice of God proclaims an alternative to the identity that self-hate argues for. Because you cling to Christ, you can repeat what God the Father says about you. Because you cling to Christ, you can own what the God the Father thinks about you. “I am okay.”