Loving God and Loving Self

When Christ told people to love God and love neighbor, I don’t recall anyone asking questions to define what loving God meant, but I do see people wondering about loving neighbor.

There is a tendency to think loving neighbor is harder. It may be, but let’s follow suit and ignore that loving God thing too. I’m sure we do that already.

Anyway, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is a fine sounding statement. One question I’ve heard in relation to this is, “Shouldn’t I learn to love myself first? I just need to accept me before I can accept others.”

Let me put this plainly and simply so as not to be confusing:

Drop your psychological crap.

People inherently love themselves. “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” We all love our flesh. Even those who torture themselves or even kill themselves are doing it for some perceived benefit to their self.

The fact that you are breathing shows you love yourself. To love someone else the way you love yourself means to do what is necessary to provide for their well-being. Something not easily done.

Interesting that Christ calls us to deny ourselves. Is denying ourselves the opposite of loving ourselves? It could be, unless denying yourself temporally means loving yourself for eternity! But if our love for self leads us to deny self are we then to deny others as we deny ourselves?

Wow, see how easy it is to get confused by this issue? Anything to avoid thinking about whether I love God enough.

5 comments

  1. Josh B.

    Before we abandon the psychological crap altogether, would you agree that this is perhaps not the best passage of Scripture for, say, a Christian counselor to bring to someone who is contemplating suicide?

    Frequently, I hear the “What if you hate yourself or you’re suicidal?” objection to this passage.

  2. jeff

    I think it’s a bogus objection. Without being heartless, a man who kills himself is still doing it out of self-love–escapism, some sense of benefit, at least the supposed benefit of ending the suffering.

    Depression is nothing more than wounded pride, a love of self not being fulfilled enough or appreciated. Nobody hates themselves and the more a person says he does the more he is clamoring for attention and love, for the boosting of his own self-love. A man can hate his life, can even say he hates himself and yet still be in love with himself and probably more than others who don’t say such things!

  3. Josh B.

    I definitely see what you’re saying. However, how would you approach a person in this condition? Surely not as roughly as you’ve stated here; where’s patience and tact and graciousness come in?

  4. jeff

    You’re right, I doubt I’d put it that bluntly. Psychology generally makes people look inward, find your inner self, analyze your past, etc. There is some benefit in this, but I think the answer is to look outward. First to look to love of God followed by love of others. Those are the two commandments and I think they lead to healthy mental and emotional living. It would be a process of getting the person to look outward rather than inward. Sounds like a simple answer, and I think it is a simple answer, but difficult to guide someone into. It would take time.

  5. Frank Z.

    I think you have it right, Jeff, the simple answer is the right one, especially when it adheres to God’s law.

    Suicide is an extreme form of self-pity, and self-pity is just the desire for self-exaltation but in a different dress. “Nobody loves me!” actually means “I deserve more love, I’m more important than that!”

    It seems like sin leads us into either ditch: either we think too highly of ourselves, or we think too lowly. Either ditch is based on the esteem or lack of it from our fellow men.

    But our value is not to be estimated by how people treat us, or how they don’t treat us, but by the price Christ paid for us. There is enough value here for anyone, if they will only look at it, and turn their eyes away from their wretched, sinful self.