Today’s Guest Post is by Sheryle Cruse
I am astounded by the number of young people who approach me with such intense self-loathing. I frequently hear them say things like…
“I hate myself; I’m so ugly, disgusting and stupid.”
“I hate myself. There’s nothing good about me.”
When I ask them, however, why they feel that way, I usually get this response:
“I don’t know.”
“For what I am doing, I do not understand…”
“One in every 200 girls between 13 and 19 years old, or one-half of one percent, cut themselves regularly.”
“The three leading causes of death for 15 to 24-year-olds are automobile crashes, homicides and suicides – alcohol is a leading factor in all three.”
“About 20 percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood.”
“Suicide is the third- leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds in America.”
www.dosomething.org. (Used with permission).
It reminds me, of a South Pacific musical number, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.” Its theme was learning racism. However, the song’s lyrics are too eerily close to teaching self-hatred:
“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught from year to year. It has to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught…”
It seems to be reflected in so many young people’s minds now. Self-hatred is never far from the conversation. Threats of suicide and self-injury often pop up.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”
Unrealistic body images, consumerism, and conditional love statements are just a few examples of things which are “carefully taught.”
And we usually don’t see the damage until years later when, for instance, “all of a sudden,” someone has an eating disorder or is a cutter. And then we ask what happened?
The reality is, often times, eating disorder sufferers and self-injurers, these kids with tremendous self-hatred, are the “good kids.” They’re the pleasers, the overachievers and the ones we tell ourselves we’ll “never have to worry about.”
Perhaps, we didn’t teach these kids as carefully as we should have about their inherent, everlasting value. The kids learned all too much, all too often, toxic, manipulative and distorted lessons. And they didn’t learn God’s lessons about their worth, beauty and identity.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
“Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…”
Whenever I speak with a young person, a large challenge I have is convincing them of this scripture’s relevant truth for them, individually and personally. They are not excluded.
“…‘God is no respecter of persons.’”
But that Truth has such toxic competition with this world’s harmful messages.
And today’s youth, unfortunately, are repeatedly “carefully taught” its destructive “exclusive” lesson. Whether it’s the preferential treatment of high school popularity, bullying or the emphasis of celebrity status, the message conveyed is often the beautiful/worthy people are included, while the worthless, ugly and defective people are to be shut out.
And another toxic message, the “conditional love” message, is also constantly bombarding us- and of course, today’s youth. Indeed, this “conditional love” can come from such avenues as popular culture, school or even from the family unit itself. Whether it’s conscious or not, intentional or not, the message is this: results are prized, warranting love, affection and positive affirmation. If, however, the individual does not obtain these desired results, then he/she is worthless.
I have personally experienced this kind of “conditional love message” myself.
“I desperately wanted my dad to notice me…My perfect attendance record in school is an excellent example. For three years in a row, I did not missed one day…knowing that I would win a perfect attendance certificate, proof I was worthwhile…So for the next few years, I went to school with colds, sore throats and influenza…
When I reached junior high, I became so sick I had to stay home…After three days home, my dad…decided he would take me into school…he was fuming…I got up the nerve to ask him, “Do you still love me?” His answer? “If you do this again, I won’t.” …I had to prove myself in order to be loved…”
(Excerpt taken from Cruse’s book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder”)
Just like I did, years ago, vulnerable youth are often left to personalize this conditional love message. Besides eating disorders, body image and self-esteem issues, addictions, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts/actions can also occur.
These toxic messages exalt a temporary or nonexistent estimation, like image, fame, achievement or money to make someone loveable and valuable. When we, therefore, subscribe such god-like importance to them, the cries for help from our youth often occur.
Any message which promotes hatred/rejection of self is not from God.
“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”
That’s, perhaps, the most dangerous message a young person can receive: God hates him/her. “God is love” (1 John 4:16), sadly, is not their experience. Again, we have allowed ourselves to be carefully taught, seemingly everything else except God’s Love and Word. Repeatedly, God tells us He loves each one of us- unconditionally, faithfully.
“…‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
He commands us also love each other…
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
But that love must begin with self. We may nod our heads and roll our eyes at that statement, but we still have so much difficulty living it. We hate ourselves in the name of achieving acceptance, popularity, success and unrealistic beauty and image standards. I’ve seen it; I’ve done it.
How many addictions, disorders and suicides does it take? Who’s expendable enough to be the sacrificial lamb? When does the insane self-hatred lesson stop being taught?
God is not the enemy; we are, often times! In every harmful and wrong message, when will we accept and teach this one, when it comes to a person’s value?
“For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse
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