In Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, UK educator A. S. Neill wrote All hate is self-hate. Neill felt that teenagers turned to self-hate and internal hostility when they were denied an outlet for their expression in the adult systems of emotional regulation.
Soon after the Columbine High School shootings, I watched a program that focused on possible explanations that could account for 13 murders by two teenage boys on April 20, 1999. There was discussion about what could have prevented Eric and Dylan from shooting 12 students and one teacher. Gun-control, banishing bullying, and teaching tolerance were all valuable conclusions.
However, I see those explanations as useless without imprinting kids with the significance of self-worth. You see, only a person who hates himself can hate another person. Only a person with self-contempt can contemplate murder. Self-worth and self-respect can’t co-exist with hatred. The horror of additional shooting events since 1999 that involve schools, children and young adults have stunned our minds with shock of disbelief. How does this keep happening?
It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves which is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves, wrote Catholic Monk Thomas Merton in New Seeds of Contemplation.
Hate is a painful state of being because the mind is not intended to hate. Everybody is born with an inner purpose—to love ourselves and to love others. When this inborn flame of self-love becomes diminished during childhood, it has a devastating impact on the person as an adolescent and as an adult.
If we don’t see ourselves as a uniquely special, God-created individuals with many talents, abilities, and gifts, then a lack of self-worth can easily exist in the mind along with a constant state of uncertainty and fear. In uncertainty there’s no rest, no peace—we must stay alert for possible prejudice, rejection and disapproval from others. We want to believe that we have something to offer the world, but we focus on a few people that say we’re pond scum—and we believe it! This incorrect feeling of being flawed adds fuel to the resentment and loathing we feel towards those who persistently criticize and bully us. We don’t fit in. We’re kept outside the circle of popularity. We’re judged and condemned. This opens the door to a budding mental illness where moral standards of right and wrong can become blurred.
A zero self-worth is a developed misery. It’s miserable because it’s painful and unnatural to hate one’s self—it goes against our very nature. Our core disposition is to love, not despise; to include, not shut out; to embrace, not isolate.
When we as a society stop the hate, end the prejudice, and embrace all human beings of all ages with dignity and respect they’re entitled to, maybe violence will end. When we encourage and support one another, then the inner flames of self-worth are not extinguished.
Think about it. In caring, Dr. Sandy