Of Self-Hatred

Maybe this is an old piece of vocabulary that doesn’t translate well: hatred of self. Peter Kwasniewski at NLM:

Why were the character of the Lenten collects and postcommunions so radically altered away from the constant theme of detachment from the world, salutary hatred of self, contrition for sins?

Granted, it’s a throwaway description used to make a larger point. But is it significant? Ann Olivier at PrayTell thinks so:

Kwaniewski speaks approvingly of “salutary self-hatred”.  Have there ever been other (so-called) Christians who explicitly  preached self-hatred?  Is this a new heresy?  Surely hatred of anyone is totally  incompatible with Christianity and has no place in the Mass ever.

And yet, there is this passage in which Jesus speaks of hate, but it’s not quite the “self.” John 12:25:

Whoever loves his life* loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

Taking this literally may present a danger. For many reasons. It strikes me that the self-styled religious aristocracy of the world provide very little concrete example of this, even as they might preach self-sacrifice from the Gospel. It also appears self-serving to neglect natural care for one’s health in such a way to cut a corner in the mortal life and get to heaven a little bit sooner. And the context of the Lord’s teaching is sacrifice for others. Jesus suffered and died to save us. A hero dies while rescuing the innocent. But a person whipping his or her back? Who’s helped by that? It seems to be there’s a danger of blending narcissism, self-abuse, and a self-congratulary “ethic” by loving these traditional practices a little too much.

Cultivating healthy self-esteem cultivates Christian disciples who are fully able to make authentic sacrifices. A person suffering from low self-esteem giving things up for others? Where’s the merit in that? Even non-believing sinners do that.

Getting back to that “salutary hatred of self,” it’s an oxymoron. And there’s way too much mental illness today, especially in the Church, for us to tolerate such attitudes. A better attitude is to be found in serving others, even in the liturgy, and even when we are weary or in a bad mood or ready to go home after a long day.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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