This post is from a larger series under the cat­e­gory Friend to Jesus. It is a detailed explo­ration of the three stages of faith: the believer, the ser­vant and the friend of God. If you want to start at the begin­ning, it begins with the post How Look­ing at a Car­avag­gio Paint­ing Can Change Your Life and then con­tin­ues chronologically.


When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere. Francois de La Rochefoucauld

 A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended. Ian McEwan 

Those caught in this servant phase of faith have a basis of life which sadly often begins in self-hatred. Have you ever met someone like Michal; someone who is really legalistic and is resolved to follow all rules and decorum, no matter what the cost?  The perfect character we might think of is the Church Lady that Dana Carvey played some years ago on Saturday Night Live. Do you remember her stammer, “Well, isn’t that special…”. Enid Strict is the uptight, smug, and pious host of her own talk show, ‘Church Chat.’ She’s bogged down by do’s and don’ts, and at the end of the day is only motivated by fear. She shows no joy, but only a dour, snooty, self-righteousness. In her bland and overly-patterned dresses, she is desperately lost from the One she seeks to follow. Sadly, the real Jesus is lost to her. Her only reliance is on a myriad of checklists; her only salvation is simply to NOT do a bunch of things that she deems sinful. And if you think about it, it’s not so much what she does that makes her a Christian; rather what she won’t do (and what you shouldn’t either). The Church Lady is a perfect caricature of the person caught in the servant stage of faith.

Brennan Manning in his many books has a thing or two to say about joylessness and especially, this topic, self-hatred. Listen to how he pictures the joyless person—I like how he states it here because he captures for us what is at the core of these troubling issues.

Even the compulsive drive for spiritual perfection, born not of the Spirit of God but as the needs of this world, only adds another scenario to the script for self-hatred.

In this quote he seems to say that striving for spiritual perfection at its foundation is about self-hatred. A person who is bound by rules and regulations are really suffering from a hatred of self. Again, on some level this person does not really know God’s love because if they did, they wouldn’t hate the person they are. But because of this self-hatred, they need to find ways in which to feel good about their lives. This is it. This is the starting point of what it means to be a servant too long—self-hatred. Go back to the Church Lady—isn’t that what she is all about—self-hatred? She is no different than the Pharisees for whom Jesus had the harshest words.

But what is self-hatred and how can that manifest in a person? Think about it this way—anyone who is disconnected from God has some form of self-hatred. One cannot be disconnected from their Creator and at the same time, feel good about their life overall—at least not genuinely. Now, on the surface it may seem like a person may be happy or have it all together, but in reality they are masking with other things that help them to feel good about their lives. All kinds of people do this all the time; they use either wealth or people or what they do to give them this buffer. And guess what, you can also use religion to do this as well. When a person does not fully understand God’s love for themselves, it is possible that they are still living a life alienated from God. While they use the practices of religion and will tell you all about their ‘relationship with God,’, this can be a total sham. This person uses religion as a way in which to feel good about themselves and to create that feeling of being connected to something. Again, this can sometimes be very difficult to detect, because on the surface this type of person seems to be doing everything by the book (literally). Some of these examples might be:

  • They make it point to tell you that they waited until marriage before having sex. However, they fail to mention they did everything else before getting married…
  • They know the Bible inside and out. They read it every day and have done so for the last ten years. The problem is that they never apply what they read to their lives…
  • They faithfully serve in the children’s ministry at your church and have perfect attendance. You don’t know it, but behind closed doors, they yell at their children in a way that would make your blood curdle…

The marking point for a person who struggles with self-hatred and legalism is that they have yet to experience God’s grace. This person may know the concept of grace and its definition, but they have yet to experience it for themselves. Again, this goes back to the idea that someone can know something in their head, but not in their heart. St. Silouan has a wonderful quote here that fits perfectly. He states, “He who does not love his enemies has not yet known God’s grace.” This is where everything hangs in the balance, because for the person who struggles with legalism, essentially, they themselves are the enemy and they have never learned how to love that person. This then becomes the starting and ending point. Until this person faces the reality that God genuinely loves them and they can’t do anything to earn that, they will continue to work the cycle of “being a good person:” 1) self-hatred, 2) the habit of secret sins, 3) guilt and condemnation, 4) covering these sins with the appearance of “right” living instead of being open about where they struggle. Sadly, on and on the cycle continues.

In: Friend to Jesus
Tags: , , , , ,