The fundamental truth about self-love

We continuously ask questions like how do I love myself? How do I accept myself? How can I make everything in my life ok? What is my purpose on earth? How can I be happy? What is the meaning of life? Will I ever be happy? I listened to a man speak about loving one’s self. He said, “You must treat yourself like someone you loved”. This must have been heart-warming and eye-opening because so many people laughed and smiled and applauded. I closed the video and wondered to myself what he was really on about and the message he was trying to teach. It occurred to me that every person in that auditorium will leave that seminar feeling hyped but in a few days, they will revert back to depression and ask the same questions again. They will go to another seminar or book store and fill their shelves with self-help books. Why? Friends, human wisdom can never fill that eternity that has been created in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Only Christ can fulfill and answer these questions.

We have been made to believe that lack of self-love is the reason many are sick, depressed and unfulfilled. As appealing as self-love is, just the idea that you have to love yourself enough from the inside out in order to love others is a statement that really falls short of God’s purpose and will. Why? We have allowed the corrupt mind of the world to replace what God has intended and placed in us. Most believers and preachers have joined the secular speakers who are more interested in satisfying the masses rather than telling the truth. One of my favorite bible verse Proverbs 4:20-22 says “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight; keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body”.

So, if I am to show you what true self-love is, I will only rely on the word of God. I was stuck asking myself these same questions for many years until I came across the word of God in Matthew 22:37-39 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others]”. So Jesus is telling us that we must first love God before we can truly  love ourselves and others.

 “That fundamental truth about self-love is to love God first”

What is self-love? Many people have been affected by different circumstances in life and so they define self-love in so many ways. I will look at it from two different sides;

Perfect self-love: This type of self-love is perfect because it brings with it the intense desire to love God and to seek his will, Matthew 6:10 (Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven). This type of love does not rely on human wisdom nor does it breed selfishness and arrogance. This self-love manifests confidence that comes with humility, love, and respect towards others. The good news is that God already loves you, so you experience true freedom and perfection because you rely on Jesus.

You may have experienced so many difficulties that make you unable to believe this good news. You feel that God wasn’t there when you needed him so the only way to not feel pain is to turn to worldly self-love and acceptance. Trust me when I say that it will only be a temporary relief and if not turned to God, it will result in an unhealthy love which has nothing to do with God’s inherent value of life. I had so many insecurities growing up because I experienced molestation from my childhood up to my late teens. I reduced myself to a level of unimportance for fear that if I didn’t, I would attract more prey. I began listening to various philosophies of self-love, believing that if this woman or man in the book did it, so can I. I became unresponsive to people, kept to myself, when challenged I tried to prove myself to be smarter than most and criticized those who did not measure up. This was not true freedom because only a very insecure person would act the way I did.

We judge ourselves by our body types, youth, and age and material gains. We wake up every morning, look in the mirror and declare words like I am beautiful and I can do this. When we should have said, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)”. As I said before, human wisdom gratifies the flesh only. Man is a triune being with a body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12). When you feed the flesh and neglect your soul and spirit, you will continuously feel lost. Before you say “this is of no value or it is too religious”. Ask yourself why even after those mirror moments, we still dislike ourselves? We seek confirmation from others in order to know our self-worth. This brings me to the second side of self-love.

Distorted self-love: This has nothing to do with God’s inherent value of life. This type of self-love has infiltrated our society and our churches through western lifestyle, social media, Hollywood shows, and programs. They teach you to dominate, place more value on acquisitions, focus on outward goals and careers, belittle and dismiss others to feel good about yourself. The many likes from social media cause a spike of the hormones dopamine and oxytocin giving you a false feeling of improved self-worth. I once heard a preacher ask “is your self-worth decided by your net worth”? We have diminished ourselves by appealing to the things that God forbids, yet we wonder why the rate of suicide continues to increase. Most celebrities that act as role models need substances to carry on; there is no true self-love because, in the end, many are lost through drugs and alcohol.

The world defines self-love as a meditative evaluation and acceptance of one’s positive attributes while neglecting the negatives. So what happens if you look inside and cannot identify any positive traits? What happens to your relationships if you cannot attain self-love? The problem with these definitions is that you are taught not to accept that you are flawed as a human being. Do you not know that your sins and shortfalls are just as tangible as your positive attributes? We cannot find self-love within ourselves because we have massive shortcomings. Sin has robbed us of that innate love that was given to us on the day of creation. Many shy away from this truth, so when they look inward and see nothing satisfactory, they blame themselves and are back to ground zero.

“The truth is you have to look past yourself and onto Christ, or else there is really nothing to love”.

If you think the more self-love you have, the more you are accepting of others you are wrong. Let me show you what the bible tells us about worldly self-love in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 “But understand this that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come. For people will be lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, [and they will be] unloving [devoid of natural human affection, calloused and inhumane], irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control [intemperate, immoral], brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of [sensual] pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]”.

True self-love is not really about endeavoring to love one’s self more, rather it is about seeing ourselves the way God sees us (redeemed and loved not because we are worthy in ourselves but because Christ is worthy).

Do not try to dissect your life to figure out how to love yourself, instead focus on loving God and obeying him. My husband said “Chi I can say I truly love you because I have a full revelation of who Christ is to me. His love is the reason I learned to love myself and you”. The Lord spoke to my heart from John 15:5 “I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing”. Only God determines how valuable you and I are, no matter the situation in life.

One last thing, whenever you are faced with the temptation to question your self-worth, check where your heart is. Ask yourself when was the last time you unselfishly did something for someone? When was the last time you truly smiled? Are you spending too much time on TV or on the word of God? Are you too busy wanting what another person has? What treasures are you gathering up? Are they transient or eternal? For Matthew 6:21 says “for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also”.

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