Don’t hate yourself

(Image: "I am the Good Shepherd")

6 min • December 20, 2021

“If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

These are strong words of Jesus. And again he reiterates them:

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

But he also says that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. And that we cannot hate our neighbor. So, clearly we’re not supposed to hate ourselves, otherwise we’d have to hate our neighbor!

So what does Jesus mean, that we should “hate ourselves” and “even our own lives”?

Well, first we have to understand what sin and temptation really are: Sin is when we do something bad, thinking that it’s good. Temptation is when we’re on the fence whether it’s bad or good, and just need a little nudge.

That’s the whole problem: we’re all really confused. It’s exactly the same as the temptation in the Garden of Eden: two things are offered to us: the truth, and the lie. Both are regarding morals, what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong. And sometimes we just don’t know which one’s right.

When we try to figure out the answer by what we want, we pretty much always get it wrong. This is where Adam and Eve failed, and why they chose the lie: because they wanted the apple, and all that the serpent promised would come with it. So they chose his version of “truth”, his version of what’s right and wrong.

This is precisely what Jesus is trying to save us from: from getting the answer wrong. He wants good for us! He wants us to be happy and safe and healthy and every good thing!

This is what he means by “hating our lives” and “hating ourselves”. Not really ourselves and our lives, but the part of ourselves that really wants something that’s actually bad for us.

This is because Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who wants what’s truly good for his sheep. He even runs after the one who wandered into danger, in order to save him!

And God is the one who has the true answer of what’s right and what’s wrong.

This is why the Our Father starts out by asking God that His Name be hallowed—that what he values, his morals and values and ideas, be written in a special place on our hearts, separately from our own ideas, or the ideas of others, or even the serpent’s.

The problem is that, this means we have to let go of our old ideas. That can be scary! And hard!

First of all, what if the idea you have now actually does turn out to be the right answer to a certain question about what’s right and wrong? If you exchange it you’ll be going backwards, the wrong way, into moral danger!

The solution to this is, don’t let go of any old ideas until you’re fully convinced that the new ideas are truly of Jesus, and truly good. Jesus says, “you’ll know them by their fruits.”

It’s very common for new Catholics, or Catholics who are first starting to take their religion seriously, to quickly and easily abandon good morals to follow after the bad morals that other Catholics (even in the clergy) are saying is “The Truth” and even practicing.

Study the writings of the Saints in union with the Bible, and you will learn the true morals over time. Slowly adopt these as the Holy Spirit guides you to understand them over time.

The more of a variety of these holy writings you study, the better you will understand the Truth, like shedding light on more and more sides of a diamond until the whole thing finally glows brightly and beautifully.

(And absolutely avoid anything with wrong morals—books, TV, movies, friends, anything! If the Saints said that they aren’t strong enough to withstand these sources of bad morals, how can you think you are? There are plenty of books and movies on this website which are approved by the site’s editor.)

You will often be confused about some morals you read about. Pray and don’t worry. And don’t rush to put any morals into practice that seem like you could be wrong about it or misunderstanding it! The Saints did not always act perfectly or do the right thing.

But adopting new morals can be hard too, even when we’re sure the morals we found are good and true and come from God. It can be hard to give up our old moral and exhange it for this new one.

And why? Because the old moral offered us the apple along with it. And sometimes we don’t want to let go of that apple.

But remember these words of Jesus: “What good is it to gain the whole world but to lose your life?”

And remember these words of St. Paul: “He who gave up His Own Son for us, will he not also give us all things with him?”

So don’t worry, when you exchange bad morals for good ones, you lose the bad things you gained, but gain a hundred-fold even in this life, and eternal life in the age to come!

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