I have scars.
These are not just metaphorical scars - they tell a story of my journey down the road of self-hatred. I have them on my chest, my jawline, and my cheeks. These scars are from when I had severe acne when I was in high school and college. "Acne." I hate that word.
My struggle with acne began my freshman year of high school. I remember my mother would always encourage me to wash my face before bed. I wasn’t consistent at all until I noticed pimples, and cysts would start popping up. Whenever I would play sports, it would get worse. The sweat, dirt, and heat would cause my acne to flare up quickly. I tried everything I could to prevent breakouts from happening. But literally everything I tried didn’t work. During my senior year of high school, the acne began getting severe. I went to see a dermatologist and was recommended to take medicine that would clear it up. It took about a year for my face to clear up. It was my freshman year in college before my blemishes began to fade, but the scars stuck around both on my face and in my heart. I still have occasional breakouts here and there. I hate dealing with them, but God has used my blemishes in my sanctification.
There was a time in my life where I hated myself. I hated that I had to go through the pain of showing my blemished face in public. At times I felt alone in this battle against despising my appearance. I have battled this demon of mine for ten years. I hope what I’ve learned will give Christians who fight through similar things a glimmer of hope that God is using their blemishes to make them more like the unblemished One.
Self-Hatred That Led to Materialism
I don’t remember any of my friends who struggled with their outward appearance. I was in a youth group and had several close friends, but this was one struggle that I never talked about. It was hard to open up because I hadn’t known anyone who dealt with self-hatred. I stayed closed up. I started searching for healing that I could produce myself. Materialism became a master of my heart.
I fell for the deceptive lie that named brand clothing could take the eyes of my peers off my blemishes. I never heard anyone talk about how bad my blemishes were, but it was an issue to me. It was a good enough excuse that I came up with to binge on spending my hard earned money on things that would cheer me up temporarily. I learned quickly that materialism was just a quick fix that didn’t solve the issue. Money was a poor severing tool for the root of materialism that was choking my soul. After I’d find clothes that made me feel good about my appearance, another blemish would appear. I hated myself, and I thought clothes was the antidote to my complexion catastrophe. Instead, it just led to more sin.
Isolation Was My Best Friend
If I stayed locked up in my bedroom, no one could see me. I made sure to be at home when school was out. I played sports, was involved with the youth group, but other than that, I wanted to be hidden. It didn’t matter to me if my parents saw me. I knew they loved me and that my blemishes didn’t bother them. My mother did all she could to comfort me, but I still would get frustrated. I remember there would be nights I would stay up watching Proactiv commercials while laying a hot towel on my throbbing blemishes. Sometimes I would cry, but every time my mother would come in to encourage me. She would tell me it would heal with time. I never liked it when she said that, but she was right. I often stayed up late trying to find solutions to get rid of the beast that kept me away from others. Because I stayed up late, I became lazy in the morning. Trying to fix my issues overflowed into other areas of my life which caused conflict. Homework wasn’t getting done. I didn’t want to be involved in church events. Hanging out with friends was to be feared. Isolation became my best friend, but it didn’t stay that way.
My Identity and the Unblemished Savior
God gave me faith and brought me into His family before my issues with acne began. My struggle with acne was a test that God used to make me more like His Son. It is sometimes hard to see that God would test the ones He loves. It is easy to think that once we are brought into God’s family by God our task on earth is finished. What we can miss is that God wants us to be holy, fighting sin, and obeying His Word. Sometimes sanctification can feel frustrating, unfair, or useless. But God knows how to care for His children and to bring them to see Him as our superior satisfaction. Throughout my battle with my blemishes, God took my eyes off my identity in what I looked like and put them on what He sees.
I used to be consumed with the thoughts of feeling unattractive, ugly, and judged. While everyone was growing in beards, I was dealing with ingrown hairs. I never liked pictures with friends or family photos. Slowly, I learned that my identity is in Christ, not in my appearance. My blemishes did not occur because it was God’s judgment on me. The judgment I deserve was absorbed by Jesus. On the cross after He accomplished the work needed to be done to bring us to God He said, “It is Finished” (John 19:30). One day, this body will be made new. One day, these scars and blemishes will fade forever. What is better than these physical fixes is that God has given me His heart to see past my own blemishes. No matter how good I try to look on the outside, God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Looking at Others as Christ Looks at Them
Sin often leads to even more sin. While I was in the midst of my fight with acne I started looking at others who had “blemishes.” It made me feel better about myself. I was judgmental most of my time in high school, and it continued into college. I objectified women, belittled my friends under my breath, and was extremely jealous. God has mended my heart in thess areaa. When we find issues within ourselves, that is when the Pharisee in us can come out. It is a deadly thing. Judging others based on the self-hatred you may find within yourself is not to be fixed by debasing others. Self-hatred is not solved by sulking over our situation, but by clinging to the Savior. He helps us to look at others how He looks at them. One of our greatest needs is having the eyes of our Savior in how we see ourselves and others.