“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for these things; and indeed your heavenly Father know that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)
I’m gonna get personal today: I have a low- to medium-grade self-disgust. It burns low or boils over depending on the day. I’m not sure when it started, not sure what caused it, and I am just now becoming aware of the triggers that set it off. It is not “rightly-ordered.”
Don’t get me wrong, some days are better than others. It used to seem random, the good days vs. the bad days, but I’ve discovered something very tangible that impacts these feelings. When I spend more time with my family, and when I’m engaged in meaningful, creative work, I forget to be disgusted with myself. I essentially forget myself all together. It is a forgetfulness of self that brings me the most joy. I am in the the flow the Spirit of God.
Rumination on the self, I believe both manifested in self-hatred and in self-worship, is a form of pride. When you are in the midst of self-occupation, the whole world is revolving around you. You are the cause of every success or every failure around you. You are the savior of every lost soul, or you are the devil that is driving them into hell. You become the god of the little world inside your head. Whether you love or loathe the god you’ve created yourself to be, you are undoubtedly focusing your attention on you.
Pride is the original sin, the sin that puts all of creation out of whack. Pride the sin that disorders all things, for it is through pride that we put ourselves into a position we were never meant to be in. We put ourselves at the center of our souls, removing God from that rightful place, and find that nothing else really works when we do this.
The remedy for this disorder is self-forgetfulness. Jesus taught this lesson in the Sermon on the Mount, in the passage above. It is also a common theme in other world religions (particularly Buddhism and certain strains of Hinduism). The Perennial Wisdom that is common around the world and throughout time would remind us that we are interconnected spokes on the wheel of life; we are not the hub in the center. Self-hatred and self-worship both trap us in the center; self-forgetfulness allows our souls to be free as sails on a ship, to catch the wind of the Spirit and go wherever it may blow.
C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less,” and that if you were to meet the most humble man on earth you would find that he would “not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” I believe Lewis is right on the money. Leaving self-occupation, both positive and negative behind, liberates our souls to take in the goodness, beauty, and truth in the world all around us, setting us free from the tyranny of self.