In her book Holy Listening Margaret Guenther states in the chapter Women and Spiritual Direction:
“…there are distinctly feminine patterns of sinfulness, and pride is not their besetting sin, even though many readily accuse themselves of it… Women’s pattern of sinning are different from men’s, and although embracing the role of victim is a way of remaining “sinless,” this very willingness to let oneself be hurt or even destroyed is a striking example of an essentially sinful way of being.
Far from being pride, women’s distinctive sin is self-contempt.” (p.128)
She goes on to describe how women often centre self contempt on their bodies and how this can manifest itself in eating disorders. She also says:
“More important still, women’s self-contempt manifests itself as an unwillingness to grow and take the risks that growth demands.” This may manifest in being overwhelmed by responsibility and a neglect of themselves, thus avoiding inner growth.
She identifies “tentativeness” as another manifestation of self contempt. Women may not feel they can use decisive language or express anger, denying herself in a kind of unhealthy passivity that can reveal itself in addictions or consumerism. Consumerism is a particularly insidious manifestation “since it is culturally reinforced and stimulated.” I guess this is a way in which our senses are lulled so that we do not have to make any of the mature decisions we should be making. Feeling depressed – go buy something and make yourself feel better.
“It is important not to minimize the sin of self-hatred and self-contempt. It is a sin, for at its heart is a denial of God’s love and the goodness of God’s creation. Pride plays a part after all, for the woman discounts herself as part of creation and assumes that the rules of divine love do not apply to her. That love is there for everyone else, but not for her.
Like all sin this cannot be private, hurting the sinner alone; instead its ramifications touch others, in the woman’s immediate circle and beyond. There is the waste of gifts that have not been used, frequently not even acknowledged, coupled with the inability to receive the gifts of others. Self-contempt is a loveless field that offers prime growing conditions to other sins, among them false humility, envy, manipulativeness, and sloth.” (p.130)
I think one of the reason that the chapter spoke to me is that it clearly identified an area that I have trouble in. When I am stressed, I begin to listen to the voices inside me that tell me I am not good enough; I am not the kind of person that anyone would want to have as a friend. Identifying this attitude as sin has let me deal with it, confess it and turn it over to God. I realize I may have to repeat my confession of my self-contempt many times in the future but identifying this as sin in my life seems to help. It helps me shut down the self-depreciating voices within me and listen to God who tells me of my value as his child and creation – just as he has made me.