This will probably become a sermon sometime in the next few months, but in a discussion with someone this morning something really struck me and I can’t help but begin my exploration of it right here.
What are the two greatest commandments? See Matthew 22:34-40.
1. Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Look at that second commandment again. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I’ve often looked at the first three words–love your neighbor. But what about that ellipsis at the end? “As you love yourself.” What about that?
In my conversation this morning, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m allowed to love myself. In fact, more than allowed, I’m commanded to. If I don’t love myself, how will I love my neighbor properly?
Maybe this is nothing to you, but this was an epiphany for me. I spend most of my time hating myself. I see all my mistakes and sins. I know that I’m unworthy. I’ve trained myself to think that if in any moment I actually think I might be someone lovable, then I am being proud and arrogant. I’ve trained myself to believe I’m supposed to notice all my bad choices and bad actions. I talk to myself about them all the time. I call myself names. I’m one of those people who likes to express what is bad about me before others get a chance to. That way the hurt won’t sting as badly.
But look at what Jesus said. I’m allowed to love myself. I’m supposed to love myself. Loving myself isn’t selfishness. Loving myself isn’t refusing to love others. In fact, loving myself is the path to love others truly.
How do I love myself? I Corinthians 13:4-7 provides some clues.
Am I patient with myself? Do I realize that today’s mistakes don’t define me? Do I realize that God is still working within me? Do I know that He will conform me to the image of His Son in His time so I don’t have to hate myself today for my mistakes?
Am I kind to myself? Do I take care of myself? When I’m tired do I let myself rest? When I need solitude, do I seek it? When I need to eat, do I? When I need to express how I feel, will I? Do I speak kindly to myself?
Am I envious? I know this one seems to be about others. If I love them, I won’t envy them. However, I think I can see this about myself too. If I am envious of others, I don’t love myself. Do I see the gifts God has given me? Am I thankful for them? Do I love me for those gifts of God?
Do I boast or am I arrogant? This one lets me know that loving myself is not about personal pride. If I’m boasting in myself, them I’m puffing myself up. Instead, I need to boast in God, His grace, His love, His work in me.
Am I rude to myself? Sometimes I talk to myself in ways I would never talk to others. I miss a turn and start berating myself, “Idiot, moron. How could you do something so stupid?” This gets back to patience and kindness.
Do I insist on my own way? I’ve learned that the way that seems right to me ends in death. I need to follow God’s way. Loving me means giving me the freedom to surrender to Christ and follow His will.
Am I irritable? I’ve found that I’m most irritable or easily-provoked with others when I am irritated with myself. I think this goes along with patience and kindness. Can I accept that I messed up earlier without letting myself be bogged down for days in personal anger?
Am I resentful? Do I take into account wrongs suffered. If I spend my days keeping score of all the wrongs I’ve done, I won’t be able to love me. Here’s what I need to learn. God knew all the wrongs I would commit and sent Jesus to die for me anyway. That’s how much He loved me. Loving myself doesn’t mean ignoring my wrongs. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean keeping a running total of all the wrong I’ve committed to bring up when I might start thinking something nice about myself either.
Do I rejoice in wrongdoing or in the truth? This ties in with the resentful demonstrating that not keeping score of my wrongs does not mean I’m just allowed to do wrong without concern. Loving myself means learning to rejoice when I do surrender to Jesus’ truth. All too often, when I do have victories I don’t rejoice, instead I let past defeats tarnish present victories.
Do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Loving myself means recognizing that whatever I’m facing right now will pass. I don’t need to escape into fantasy. I don’t need to escape into sin. I don’t need to escape through death. I can sit in God’s arms, with Him as my refuge and face whatever is going on. I can know that I will get through this. I can know that whatever mistakes I’ve made, God will work it out for good for me and I can hang on.
What a revelation for me today. I’m allowed to love myself. Then I’ll be able to love you. I think I’ll start today.