By Mary Beth Fogarty, MSW
If you are perfect and have it all together, this article is not for you.
If you admit that you are imperfect, flawed, scarred, hurt, or insecure, then please continue reading.
Accepting self? Loving yourself? What does that even mean? Isn’t that selfish? These are some questions that may arise when the discussion of “self-love” comes up.
I remember hearing a pastor talk about this topic 15 years ago and warned against it. I get now where he was leaning; wanting to promote dependence on the Lord and not on oneself. Let’s face it, ultimately we are not in control. BUT warning against self-love and self-acceptance is a mistake; especially in Christian circles. God has still given us free-will and quite a bit of control over our decisions. Having said that, God has given us freedom in our actions and thoughts. We are not robots solely controlled by Him. The Lord guides our path, but we still have to take the steps.
The point is NO it is NOT selfish to love yourself. You MUST if you desire to love others well. You MUST if you want to understand your purpose (whatever it may be life season to life season) and to find your motivation. Here’s why:
When you despise, hate, and shame yourself, you are not free. You are enslaved. Self-deprecation wreaks havoc on our souls. It makes you live in fear and insecurity. These feelings and thoughts consume you and do not leave much room for anything else. As a Christian, we know that Jesus died to free us, not enslave us. He knew we were imperfect and scarred and flawed. He chose to love us anyway and save us! If the Almighty God loves us just as we are, how can we not do the same?
Let’s take a look at the Golden Rule, which is founded in scripture:
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment…”
Let’s pause here for a minute. Loving God is the first portion of this rule. But that can be hindered when we are not loving ourselves. When we are loathing ourselves, we are angry, irritable, and resentful. Typically, in that state, we do not want to love God. He may very well be the one we are angry with. That, of itself, is okay. As if God doesn’t already know what we feel? He knows. If this is you and you are angry at Him, then be angry! Let it out! Cry out! I promise you He will not be surprised.
Then what? I can’t promise you that you will start loving God more then, but being honest and authentic; being raw and real with Him, is the first step.
Let’s go back to the second part of that scripture,
“‘…Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV)
If God wanted you to live in guilt, shame, self-deprecation, and self-hatred, He wouldn’t have made this the golden rule for humanity. Why? Because that would mean He would desire you to hate everyone else as much as you hate yourself. BUT instead, He says to LOVE others as you LOVE yourself.
So back to the question, what is self-love?
Self-love is accepting who you are fully- the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s accepting your mistakes and failures of the past and those of the future! Oh yes, they will continue to come. It’s being kinder to yourself and forgiving yourself (so you can fully love and forgive others). Self-love means FINALLY finding joy! Joy because you are free! FREE to love God, free to love others, and free to love who you are, exactly as you are!!
I will leave you with this fitting quote from one of my son’s favorite books, You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman:
“You’re here for a reason.
It’s totally true.
You’re part of a world that
is counting on you.”
Your purpose may have got lost along the way. Or maybe you have never really been sure what your purpose is. But I assure you, it begins with self-acceptance and embracing imperfection.
Tillman, N. (2015). You’re here for a reason. New York: Feiwel and Friends.