Can someone despise himself?

Question:

Can someone despise himself? Doesn't Ephesian 5:28-30 tells us that we all love ourselves? Please, more insight on this issue will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.


Answer:

Despising Trials and Pain

Job despised his life because of his trials. "Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said, "Let the day perish on which I was to be born, And the night which said, 'A boy is conceived.' May that day be darkness; Let not God above care for it, Nor light shine on it. ... Because it did not shut the opening of my mother's womb, Or hide trouble from my eyes. Why did I not die at birth, Come forth from the womb and expire? Why did the knees receive me, And why the breasts, that I should suck? For now I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept then, I would have been at rest … I am guiltless; I do not take notice of myself; I despise my life" (Job 3:1-4, 10-13; 9:21). He wanted to die because life had become painful beyond most people's imagination; yet, he still trusted in the Lord and did not commit suicide. In that sense, we may despise our situation or what is being done to us. Jesus despised the cross and the shameful, evil way he was treated, but he endured it because he looked beyond the cross and the outcome of the trial he was facing (Hebrews 12:2).

Despising Sin

There is also the idea of despising one's life because of sin. "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. ... For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:15,19-24). This is how Paul lived. He despised sin. He died daily to his old life. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20; see also Galatians 5:24; 6:14; I Corinthians 15:31). That is why we are told to deny ourselves and take up our cross (Matthew 16:24). There is nothing more important than God and reaching heaven (Mark 9:43-48).

Despising Life in this World

"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord -- for we walk by faith, not by sight -- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:1-8). There comes a point as a Christian that you no longer desire to be of this world at all. It is a time when you wish you could be home with God and leave this world of sin and corruption behind. Thus, you dislike (despise) living in this world. It is not a place to call home for the righteous (I Peter 2:11). There is a promise that when we put off this earthly tent, we will reach a place where righteousness dwells and there is no more sin. "But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (II Peter 3:13). This is where our true longing should be for "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal" (John 12:25).

Not Despising One's Spouse

In Ephesians 5:28-30 Christ did not despise the church, to treat her with contempt and hate; instead, he loved with a self-sacrificing love, giving of himself to the building up and nourishing of the church, which is His body because they are one (John 17:20-26). In the like manner, a husband who treats his wife badly is harming himself because God joined them together. To tear that oneness apart would be to destroy himself (Matthew 19:5-6; Malachi 2:14-16). When a husband treats his covenant in agape love, he is loving and helping himself because he and his wife are one in marriage (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Despising One's Self

Notice that while there are situations where you may end up despising the situation in which you find yourself, it isn't normal to direct that dislike at yourself. "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it" (Ephesians 5:29). I suspect that those who do have a difficult separating themselves from the situations in which they find themselves. We are designed with strong instincts to protect ourselves. When a person causes himself harm, we rightly see that as a mental illness.

Alan Feaster and Jeff Hamilton