I suppose I’d be fully justified to be angry about the quote I’m sharing below (many are, and for a number of reasons), but I’m mostly just sad as I almost empathize with the sentiment. I do tend to hate my body, or physicality in general.
We were so very isolated as children. Sometimes I forget that. In this context, the only people I knew or saw with any kind of regularity were family. We had few movies and fewer connections to pop culture – for a long time not even internet. As a boy going through teen years, there was no one to even have a crush on, much less talk to. Sexuality was little more than a few kissing scenes in movies (I’ve probably never actually seen the kisses in some of these movies). This was just one facet of my life which was stunted – all feelings repressed, internalized, no idea what to do with them or even what they are, so you bury them.
I found a woman in my life when I was around 19. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it and I just figured things out with her as we went along. But in some ways it was like floodgates were opened. I was in love and committed to her (we’ve been married over 5 years now <3), but the feeling of attraction–my sexuality in general–was awakened.
I’ve learned over time that you can’t really selectively shut down emotions or feelings. You repress one you don’t want, and the world seems a little more dim. You find an attraction you can’t indulge, and you can crush it and feel nothing, or redirect it towards something (someone) acceptable. Or that’s how I coped, anyway, through late teens-mid twenties. If it wasn’t self-deprecation, I probably hid it.
With teaching like this, you do indeed learn to hate yourself. You slowly cut yourself off from the simple pleasures, and as the physical sensations of the world grow dim, the less interest you have in opening yourself to the possibility of feeling.
This always seemed like “life on the highest plain”, where your joy comes from the Lord, and you find purpose in living in light of eternity. I experienced what I thought was true joy and contentment vicariously through others – Sunday worship, or Communion, posting something profound on Facebook and feeling spiritual about it when someone would respond with commendation.
Depression finished the job. Getting my happiness from the high of social acceptance or community experiences? Depression sapped the energy I have for social life down to nothing. Sex? There’s not enough in the tank to do what needs to be done for it to be the emotionally connecting and healing experience it can be when meaningful. Food, drink? Eh, I need it to live, but it’s not like I’m particularly invested in living.
Life on the highest plain was little more than just a high. Depression and the relentlessness of the ordinary wears us down, the thrill of newness replaced with daily upkeep, and I’m empty and spent. I’m numb to the reward of anything I do. It’s a sort of twist on the story of the prodigal: thinking I could live above the physical, I left it behind, only to lose it all, and I must swallow my pride and beg for a taste of the humblest of ordinary pleasure. George Bailey crying out “I want to live again!”
Hatred of myself, the physical–because I see it as a failure and sinful as I choose greed or laziness–is in the end just what it is: the opposite of love, a violation against nature and, yes, God’s grace if you believe in that sort of thing. We curse God when we hate the physical because it is doing what it is designed to do: give us pleasure, pain – feeling and meaning to our existence. And for the love of God, it is not sin when our bodies fail in what they were designed to do – disease, allergies, depression and other disorders of the brain. It is not sin when we feel, and enjoy food, and sex, and beauty. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood…”, and it isn’t what a man takes in that defiles him. It is what we put out – what we choose to do with the input that brings heaven or hell to earth.
The next life will come when it comes, and how it comes. For now, I’m here, present, physical. Hatred is easy, and futile. Love is the only way forward.