From Self-Hate to Loving Kindness

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Dear Still Water Friends,

Our Thursday evening gathering this week will begin with anOrientation for Newcomers and others at 6:30. Our meditation periodwill be from 7 to 8, and our program will look at self-hate andself-compassion. 

Recently I’ve had many occasions to think about and talkwith to others about peace. A core tenet of our practice is us thatif we want peace in our relationships, our families, and in the world,we have to cultivate peace in ourselves, daily, moment by moment.

This thread led me to thinking about the people I know whoseem to not be at peace with themselves. Their inner dialoguesare full of criticismand self-hate.

Thich Nhat Hanh teachesself-acceptance, and often talks about it in terms of not doing violence to ourselves. For example,in Creating True Peace he writes:

Being aware of our jealousy,judgments, and fear is already a positive step toward acceptance. Whenwe accept ourselves as we are, we do not any longer need to fight tochange ourselves. The moment we become aware that we are being toocritical of ourselves and accept our negative seeds, we are alreadymaking progress. . . .

The practice is easy: just become aware of our negative energies, andin just cultivating this awareness, we will make steady steps on thepath. Conflict is not necessary.

It is a great quote, but I was looking for something more directlyfocused on the dynamics of self-hate. So I turned to Zenteacher Cheri Huber and her book There is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate. (To intimately know self-hate, I think it helps to be an American.)

Huber’s book opens with an epigraph which sums up her main teaching:

You’ve been taught
That there is something wrong with you
And that you are imperfect,
But there isn’t
And you’re not.

According to Huber, the way out of believing there is somethingwrong with you is to not listen to anything other than loving speech:

Any time a voice is talking to you that is not talking with love and compassion, DON’T BELIEVE IT!

Even it it’s talking about someone else, don’t believe it.Even if it is directed at someone else, it is the voice of yourself-hate. It is simply hating you though an external object. It canhate you directly by telling you what a lousy, rotten person you are,and it can hate you indirectly by pointing out what’s wrong outthere.

If the voice is not loving,
don’t listen to it,
don’t follow it,
don’t believe it.


Huber’s discussion moves from the grossforms of self hate to the more subtle ones. The one that really hithome for me was about making myself (and making others) into a project. Fixing, correcting, makingbetter, was something I was raised with, I learned in school, I did as my work for years. “Here, let me fixthat,” often oozes up, uninvited. 

As a spiritual practice, accepting, ending the internal war, is our priority. Huber pithily sums up the difference:

I am not here to become an acceptable person.

I am here to accept the person I am.

Huber also notes that, ironically, when we learn to fully embrace ourselves, dramatic changes begin to occur.

You are invited to join us this Thursday. Our discussion willexplore three questions: In what ways do you know self-hate? Inwhat ways do you know acceptance and loving-kindness? How does ourpractice help us move from self-hate to loving-kindness?

If you will be coming to the Orientation, it is helpful, butnot necessary, to let us know ahead of time by emailing us

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher