I love seeing the search terms that bring people to this website. Some of them are strange, some are creepy, some are funny, some are sad. Sometimes, the search terms inspire posts, like this one, which landed someone here last week:
“Is Hating My Body a Sin?”
And so I’d like to attempt to answer that question.
To begin, we might ask “What’s sin?” I’m aware that there are about a thousand disputed ways to answer that question–and so no one ‘perfect’ way–but I like this one:
Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.
And I’d add that the people who make it easy for all of us to hate our bodies (through relentless idealization of unreal bodies, through profit-motivated manufactured discontent) are more ‘guilty’ than the teenager who thinks there’s something wrong with her thighs.
Then we might ask “what’s meant by ‘hating my body’?” There’s no answer in a catechism, of course, but we could try something like this:
Hating one’s body is the disrespecting of the body God has given us, which in itself is worthy of respect and honor, being made in God’s image, the fulfilling of desires in ways God not intend, to believe lies about human bodies in general and ours in particular, and to covet for ourselves a body not our own.
So I would say that, yes, hating one’s body usually involves sin: a distortion of the relationship God desires to have with us, and the relationships God desires for us to have with others and with creation.
And, like any sin, hating our body means a loss of freedom and liberty that God desires for us.
Hating our bodies is a great handle for marketers to grab onto–which is why I see body hatred as a corporate ‘sin’ as much as an individual one. Untold billions are made off of people’s hatred of their bodies.
Body hatred might be regarded as a form of ingratitude for the life and body God has given us. It may lead us to fulfill certain desires in ways God doesn’t intend (for example, self-starvation or gluttony.) It may lead us to covet what we don’t have–as when we look at someone else’s body and wish we looked “like that.”
As always, the ultimate remedy is the grace of God shown to us in Jesus. I think of the communion table as a place of grace and healing in particular for this ill. Supplementary remedies include:
- Love & Gratitude
Give thanks for your body and for your life! If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re breathing. Start with giving thanks for that breath. And the next one. And so on.
- Be Extra-Kind to your body–enjoy your body!
Loving your neighbor “as yourself” presupposes that you love yourself. Eat well. Sleep enough. Move some. Put lotion on your dry skin. Dress so that you are comfortable and confident. Doesn’t mean endless primping. I’m talking about making the time to treat your body as well as you would treat the body of someone you really love.
- Starve the Beast!
Interrupt the cultural messages that encourage you to think there’s something wrong with YOU, instead of with the airbrushed images of anorexic people they present as ideal.
Answer the inner voice back if it’s telling you that you’re ugly, too thin, too fat, too jiggly, whatever.
Remind yourself that you are God’s handiwork.
For me, starving the beast means I don’t look at certain catalogs or magazines or shows. Do you need to cancel certain subscriptions? Stop watching certain movies?
- Prayer and Meditation
Ask God for mercy and help to see yourself and others as God sees them.
- Find Support
If you suspect that you may need professional help for an eating disorder or for a body image disorder, please get help.You can even contact me if you need help looking for a professional in your area.
But even if your problem does not warrant the care of a mental health professional, it is a good idea to find support in a friend or confessor who has a healthy body image and can encourage you to embrace yourself as God made you.
What has helped you accept your body? What has stood in the way?