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God Never Said to Just Love Yourself

Is it just me or does it seem that lately, instead of people attempting to improve themselves, the new fad is to simply accept yourself for who you are, even if who you are isn’t that great?

We talk about being easy on ourselves, being kind to ourselves, being our own best friend. This seems absurd to me. How can I be my own best friend? And why would I want to?

Here’s another one of my favorites: “You can’t love anyone else, until you love yourself.” Or the variation: “No one will love you, until you love yourself.” When did loving yourself become a prerequisite for loving others or being loved? I know a guy named Jesus, who would probably disagree with this sentiment.

Yet, we’ve heard this mantra time and time again. We tell people that they’ll never find love until they learn to love themselves. We’ve heard Oprah and Dr. Phil tell us that loving ourselves is necessary if we’re ever to find true happiness. But when I think about this, an image pops in my mind that actually causes me to laugh out loud:

I picture Jesus standing in front of His disciples, recalling to them that they are the vine and He is the vine dresser. They must abide in Him. He is the source of life…and oh yeah, they must love themselves before they can love others. He said to love others, as yourself, but never told us we need to love ourselves in order to love others. There’s a big difference.

Can you even imagine the hilarity and ridiculousness of such an idea? Can you imagine Jesus telling His disciples to love themselves? Or picture this: Mother Teresa implying that the reason she loved others so selflessly and freely was because she first learned to love herself.

When really, the opposite is true. We love others, not because we love ourselves or even like ourselves. We love others because He first loved us and His love does nothing less than compel us to love others in the same extravagant and radical way.

There is no message of radical self-love in the Bible and yet we hear it all the time. So, where did this message come from and do believers really fall for this line?

I suppose I could do what I always do and blame the self-esteem movement. It seems that the “love yourself” message has developed, in part, from the idea that children constantly need their self-esteems to be built up, again and again.

But more than that, our culture has convinced many of us that serving ourselves is the most important thing and that everything else flows from that. I once saw a fortune cookie that read “Our first and last love is self-love.” This flies in the face of the Gospel and distorts the truth about Christ’s selfless sacrifice.

Of course, this message is disguised as “loving yourself,”  or “being your own best friend,” or “putting yourself first.” Moms especially hear this message, as we are told that in order to be better moms, we need to take time for ourselves.

I don’t completely disagree. I mean, I’m a mom of three and I’ll never turn down a pedicure followed by an hour of sipping coffee  and reading, alone…all alone. But what I won’t buy into, is the lie that if I don’t get my toes painted and every one of my personal needs met, that I’m going to fail as a mom or my children will suffer, as a result.

What I won’t buy into is the lie that loving others requires my own self-confidence to be supremely boosted, to the point of self-indulgence.We all need rest. We all need reprieve. But, we don’t need an ego-boost to bless the Body.

Psalm 71:5 says “For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.” He supplies our confidence. No one else.

Never mind the fact that Jesus loved others, in the most profound ways, while showing little, if any, concern for Himself. He never stopped to have His own needs met because He was too busy meeting the needs of others. Yes, He spent time alone seeking the Father’s face. He stole away from the crowds when He needed to be restored and refreshed.

But it seems that almost all of Jesus’ motivations to do those things, was so that He would be filled up, in order to once again pour Himself out. Jesus did not need to love Himself in order to love others. He chose to die on a cross to prove it.

Have you ever been guilty of thinking you need to love yourself first in order to love others? How do you balance taking time for yourself when needed with giving of yourself when called?