Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Must We Love/ Like Ourselves Before We Can Love Others?

I was chatting recently on one of my very favorite homeschool mom discussion boards over at Teaching Mom and the subject came up about loving oneself. The question was actually twofold:

1.) "Are you allowed to 'love' yourself? To be happy and pleased with your physical appearance/state of health/etc? You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and God loves us just the way we are...but, is to be happy with your looks pride?"

Some people feel that in order to love others and God you must first love yourself. I happen to disagree. Here's part of my response on the board-
To love oneself and to be happy/pleased with one's appearance are 2 different things, imo. When the scriptures talk about loving someone as you love yourself, it's assumed that loving yourself is what? Caring for yourself in terms of eating, living... survival. God assumes we will love ourselves in the sense that we care for our bodies so we may survive. Ephesians 5:29 says "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,".

When Jesus spoke of loving your neighbor as yourself, a lawyer asked him in particular how to do this by saying, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus' response? The parable of the good samaritan. The good samaritan showed love for his neighbor by what? Caring for his physical needs. You can read about this in Luke 10.

It seems to me that the phrase of loving one's neighbor as loving oneself in the many instances where it appears in the Bible isn't about how much we love ourselves... rather, the focus is what it looks like to love a neighbor. It's assumed we love ourselves enough to attempt to ensure our continued living, 'know what I mean? The entirety of Old Testament law is based on loving God, and loving your neighbor as yourself. Just look at all the admonitions in the Bible about how we are to treat each other. The focus in on the neighbor.

What I see in the scriptures is that physical appearance is fleeting (Pv. 31:30), that exercise has some benefit but godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8), and that focus on outward beauty is of lesser value than inner beauty of a meek and gentle spirit toward God.

Your question - are we allowed to love ourselves - I would say that it is assumed we will love ourselves. It's not about not being allowed to do so. However to take pride in one's appearance or abilities is to take pride in something that could quickly change. It's all about what our hearts are set on, in my opinion... God or myself?

2.) "Are you allowed by God to be confident in your ability? This is something that I REALLY struggle with and is probably why I have so much problems with anxiety. You are to rely on God for everything....but I can do all things through Christ who strenghteneth me.... Do I have to wait around for God to make me feel confident? Or can I feel confident because God has already made me strong?"

My response to this-
Let me ask you this - what abilities do you have that weren't ultimately given to you by God (as Paul said, "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?"- 1 Cor. 4:7) We know we have different giftings (spiritual and otherwise), and we know we are to walk in these giftings so the Body can function well. It is not prideful to walk in those things for which you've been gifted by the Lord.

I say for this question, look to what Paul boasted in. 1 Cor. 1:31 says “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul also said that he did boast about something in himself... his weaknesses! 2 Cor. 12:9 says, after Paul asked God to take away the thorn in his flesh, "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.'

You can and should always feel confident in God. He never fails. Often times in our weaknesses is where He is made strong.

So walk in what you sense He is calling you to do. Be strong in Him, not in yourself. Immerse yourself (heart, mind, soul) in the Word and just rest in His faithfulness.

Sounds simple - but I'm a simple gal.


I often see people advising others to make sure their self esteem is healthy. However, I don't find evidence for this line of thinking in the scriptures. I'm not saying a person should hate his/herself, but rather the focus is on loving God and others. The "gospel" of self esteem seems to have creeped into the church. How did this happen?

More later...

1 comment:

  1. One thing a former pastor told me many years ago, helped me understand the whole issue of "self-esteem." He said, "God does not want us to have high self-esteem, the Bible even says to esteem others better than yourself. Rather, we need to have a godly self-image, or an honest/accurate self-image." In other words, what is God's view of us? Don't act like you don't have the gifts you do - it's a lie. But, don't put so much merit in your gifts that you think you're better than someone else. God has given each person differing gifts - what we need to use for the edifying and building up of others. It's as simple as that.

    So now, I often tell people who tend to have poor self-esteem "no, you don't need high self-esteem, you need an accurate self-image." God's Word tells us exactly how to get that!