“My poor heart, here we have fallen into the snare,
from which we have so often resolved to escape!
Come, let us rise up once more and forsake it forever,
let us call for God’s mercy, and put our trust in it,
for His mercy will assist us in standing firmer for the future,
so will we return to the path of humility.
Let us not be discouraged, but be well on guard from this time.
God will help us and guide us.”
–St. Francis de Sales
Perhaps due to negative voices from the past that demanded perfection OR because you demand perfection from yourself today, right here, at this second, OR maybe even because you try to live up to unrealistic (worldly) expectations OR because you have been abandoned for not living up to another person’s expectations, you find yourself in the awful condition of self-loathing–so much self-loathing that you cannot even see the good gifts that God has endowed. There are several external and internal reasons for reaching a state of self-loathing.
From St. Francis’ great wisdom on humility, this type of self-loathing does not come from humility and is not love, so it cannot be coming from God; self-loathing feels uncomfortable because God is love. He is contrary to hate [the hate you have either received or give to yourself], and He is present to offer His hope, love, and gentleness to you. Our Lord wants to help you live a life of hope, love, and gentleness, so He draws you during these times of self-loathing. It is a battle, so to speak, that He wants to help you win. So, feeling the pain of self-loathing does not mean God has left. It means He is there to help you find a better way.
Humility helps us to see both our gifts and our imperfections honestly, but humility nurtures hope, not despair.
St. Francis reminds us in this next chapter to be gentle to self:
Goal: To remain balanced in our attitude towards self, neither too bitter nor too sweet.
Effects of being too harsh towards self:
Bitterness towards one fault often builds anger causing another fault–rage.
Pride is nurtured because we have already assumed that we are perfect and should have no faults/sins.
We often scream at one type of sin and let others slide because bitterness, not honesty, becomes the guide.
Be honest (objective)–Look upon faults calmly, methodically, and with reasonableness and repentance built on hope.
Be hopeful–Encourage yourself to keep trying, but also be patient.
Be proactive–Learn how you can personally avoid sins and how you can be strengthened against them.
Be balanced–Remember that God has also endowed you with good gifts, most especially a soul and heart that seeks Him-Who-is-Love.
When a sin is too grievous for gentleness:
A firmer self-reproach might be necessary in order to stop committing grievous sins. However, always remember to focus on God when trying to amend your life, not self. Trust in His mercy. Give Him praise under all conditions. Believe that He is stronger than your sin. He has won you by the Cross. You are extremely important to Him. Pray that you might have the courage to let Him transform you into a better person, one step at a time.
“Therefore when your heart has fallen,
raise it gently,
humbling yourself greatly before God, and acknowledging your fault,
but without marveling at your fall: it is no marvel
that infirmity should be infirm, that weakness be weak, and that frailty is frail.”
–St. Francis de Sales
Mysteries for reflection:
Third Luminous Mystery–The Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Good Shepherd
Fourth Joyful Mystery–Finding Jesus in the Temple, He can always be found
First Sorrowful Mystery–The Agony in the Garden, He has to the strength to help you through the most difficult times
Reference: An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, Part III, Chapter 9
Blessed Mother and Child by J. Kirk Richards