"Hell is other people," is a line from Sartre’s famous one-act play No Exit, in which the three characters have been judged, are in hell, and have been sentenced to spend eternity in a room with one another. The French reads “L’enfer, c’est les autres," which simply says, “Hell is [the] others.”
Sartre offered the following explanation of the phrase:
. . . "hell is other people” has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because. . . when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves, . . . we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves.
[Jean-Paul Charles Sartre (1905–1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, and political activist. He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature but declined the honor because he did not want to take sides in the cultural struggle between the East and the West.]
Indeed, we do serve as a mirror to one another, but not a very good mirror. That's because we respond to one another with what can only be a flawed and incomplete understanding of each person's true meaning and value. What's worse is that where there are blanks, we fill them in by superimposing our own inadequacies, doubts and fears. Indeed, "Hell is other people!"
Don't remain trapped in a life where people are your only reflection. There IS an "Exit." If you want to know your true value, all you have to do is turn to God. For while Hell is other people, Heaven is God! Only God knows you perfectly; and even with that perfect knowledge, He loves you with an unconditional and everlasting love.
And don't be "Hell" to other people. Rather than impart your imperfect love, learn what it means to reflect the perfect love you have received in the face of Christ!
"For God, who said, "Let there be light in the darkness," has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6, NLT).
"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely" (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT).
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . ." (Gen. 1:26).