“I hate myself” – how do you respond to someone in despair?

“I hate myself” – have you heard these words from a friend or loved one? Or perhaps that is how you feel? These words come from a place of deep hurt, anger and pain. So, it’s a huge challenge to know how to respond.

“I feel like I am a failure,” a family friend told me recently sharing her desperation, “I hate myself.” Bereavements, losses and disappointments had taken their toll in her life and she had turned to the wrong things for comfort. I sensed she felt trapped, unable to break free. And on top of this, she had all the challenges of Lockdown which made everything worse.

She was angry, mad at herself for letting herself go, upset with those around her for not caring enough and didn’t have anything positive to say. How do you cope in such situations? Let us know in the comments section below.

Thankfully my wife has taught me not to be too quick to answer and offer immediate solutions. That is not what angry people want to hear. They want you to listen and respond in a way they know they have been heard.  So I did my best to listen to this friend, saying things like, “I’m sorry you are feeling so low, you sure have been dealing with a great deal lately.”

From “I hate myself” to “I’m okay”

Of course in the back of my mind I had a whole recovery course of action worked out but she wasn’t ready to hear any of it. I realised I needed to coax her gently and get from a place of “I hate myself” to “I’m okay.” In this instance what worked best was just talking to her and reminding her of all the things she had already overcome. I felt that if I could guide her to some positive conclusions, that she could figure out all on her own, then I would be throwing her a lifeline.

“Help Lord”, I was praying under my breath, trying to think of the best thing to say. “I can hear you are very angry,” was all that came out, but that seemed to calm her down because I had at least acknowledged where she was at.  Then, I was able to start addressing her feelings of self-hatred by pointing to her true identity in God. I encouraged her to see herself as God sees her and forgive herself as Jesus forgives us all. We all need to be more compassionate with ourselves.

It can be draining supporting friends and loved ones through painful times but that is what we are here on earth for.  The Bible says that with the same comfort we have received we can comfort others. I started off my listening which then gave me the opportunity to point her towards God. I was also able to share God has helped me to overcome feelings of inferiority and get back my confidence.

“You know what I do when everything around me is stressing me out?” I asked. “I look back and see how I have come through these things in the past. That reassures me that by God’s grace I will come through them again.”

The Gospel is Good News and it is so important to weave it into our conversations as it is only God’s Word that doesn’t return void. This can be as simple as telling someone that God loves them and has a plan for their lives. He is the God of all hope and can turn any failure around.

If you feel reticent to share the Gospel with others I highly recommend the Living and Telling online course which is designed to equip Christians to share Jesus effectively. The course will help you show people how God loves them and created them to know Him personally. That we are separated from God by our sin so we cannot experience His love. That Jesus Christ is God’s only solution for our sin. Through Him alone, we can know God and experience His love and forgiveness.

If your friend is aleady a Christian, I suggest you encourage them to share what they are thankful for, no matter how small, and get them to start speaking positively about their situation. Thankfulness has the ability to turn our circumstances around. It’s hard to be angry and hate yourself when you are thankful.

Anybody who says “I hate myself” is in need of much prayer. Bring God into the picture for He is the God of all hope and commit to praying for them regularly to find their true identity in Him and overcome all the obstacles they face. Developing an understanding of who we are in Christ is key to overcoming self-hatred.

Also read: ‘Trust God to turn a minus in your life into a plus’ – Reinhard Bonnke

Wordsmith, overcomer and exhorter. Al has a degree in Journalism and Media Studies and years of communications experience in Africa, the UK, Israel and USA. He left South Africa in 2001 and worked for GOD TV in England for 18 years. He now heads up Countdown Creative, a content creation business in Exeter. Al is the author of three biographies. Blogs he writes for include GODTV.com; International Christian and UK and US Christian.

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