What if the one thing that is keeping us from loving others, is our inability to love ourselves?
We can all agree that from the beginning of time, starting with the very first man and woman, there has been a fracture in our human ability to love; a deficit in how we loves God, a deficit in how we love one another; and a deficit in how we love ourselves. And in the middle of this obvious deficit, Jesus sweeps us away with these powerful words that start first and foremost with loving our God, and then…
Love your neighbor as yourself.
You want me to love myself?
We often look at this verse as a call to love others, and it is. But deep inside this verse is a call to something even deeper. The more I’ve learned about myself through the discipline of psychology, the more I am completely in awe of how well God knows me.These five words hold such powerful insight into the human psyche, because they are words that speak love into a deficit that God knows exists: A deficit in loving myself. But what if this deficit, was holding me back from really, truly, genuinely, fully loving people?
You cannot fully love others, until you have learned to love yourself, because our ability to love others, is contingent on how we love ourselves.
For a perfectionist like me, that hits me square in the nose. It turns my stomach, and makes me come clean with the struggles I have within myself. It opens my eyes to the places and ways in which I’ve neglected to love myself, or even worse, to the moments in which I dislike myself.
I know so many Christians who also struggle deeply with this concept. There are Christians who have never been taught to love themselves.
Christians who mistakenly thought they had found some solace in the words of the Bible that taught them to deny their self, to put others before them, and to consider themselves as nothing. Masking self-loathing with self-denial. Confusing humility with a lack of self worth. Considering “putting others first” as a call to neglect and repress their needs and their health. Mistaking self-hatred for selflessness.
But there is tragedy in this type of degradation, because it is a misinterpretation of God’s precious word, and an injustice to the reflection of His heart.
We are called to love ourselves! We are called to enjoy how God has made us, to delight in our uniqueness, our value, and our worth. God delights in us, and we also are to delight in who He has created us to be.
You see, God is not calling us to deny who he has made us to be, but rather, who He has not made us to be. To deny our sinful nature with its temptations and its downfalls. To deny our selfishness and our stubbornness. To deny our lust, our pride, our idolatry. To deny the things that separate us from God. And only those things.
But, Christians, we are ultimately called to love ourselves- just as God loves us. We are called to delight in ourselves as He delights in us. And when we do, we will find that gates to loving others have never been so easy to walk through. We will find that loving others becomes so real, so genuine, and so complete. We will find that in that beautiful exchange of love between our self and our God, we find the strength and motivation to exchange that same love with our neighbors.
Lord, give us the ability to love ourselves as you love us- in order that we may then learn how to truly love others. With no strings attached.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!